ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: The Writer, His Wife, and their Afterlife

I know why I sleep during the day and live at night: it’s easier.

No one’s around when I get the mail. No one’s around when I go in and out to the grocery. No one’s around as I write. No knocks on the door. No ringing of the phone. It’s quiet. I can write, type, read, bathe, eat. No interruptions.

I need peace about me to write. I’m thinking and feeling as I write. I begin without really knowing where I’m going. One thought leads to the next. My mind is both focused and flowing . . . at least, I hope it is.

Ernie loved the freedom writing gave him. He ranged wherever he wanted. Through his characters, he thought whatever he wanted to think, felt whatever he needed to feel. I get it now, Ernie, why you identified yourself as writer first and foremost. You were writer before you were husband and father. That was the order of things. Writing came first. In your writing is you.

I will finish this writing — this memoir, this double biography, this hybrid of you and me — then I’ll turn to your writing. I’ll find publishers for your work. The story of Crinklestitch Cricket, who proves his courage by braving the Land of the Zuels. The story of Bryan and Arabella, who finally come home to each other. The story of alcoholic Jacob and his band of friends, who help each other follow their dreams. The story of Canyon and Rock, who lose each other twice. And your final story, Nine Finches and a Parrot, that you called an allegory of our times. It is. It’s an allegory of all times. I haven’t read Summer Afternoons in years, not since I typed it — the story of a pivotal summer in a young boy’s life.

What young boy? You, of course.

This is what I’m realizing now: you’re in all your stories, Ernie. You are every one of your characters. That’s how complex, complicated, wondrous, far-ranging, endlessly inventive, you were.

In your writing, you come back to me. In my writing, you come back to me. It’s all I have of you — your writing, my writing, the memories. And, of course, Joshua, who comes from both of us and who is finding his own self.



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My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 3-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.