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

Book One, Part Two, Chapter 121: Two Anniversaries

It’s four-thirty in the morning on Ernie’s and my forty-first wedding anniversary.

I look out my living room window to see a bright star in the eastern sky. It’s low — about the height, it seems, of this eight-story building. It’s probably not a star — it’s a planet. Venus? The planet named for the goddess of love and beauty showing up on our wedding date?

Ironic.

I remember our fortieth anniversary. It was a Sunday. Ernie, Joshua, and I drove to a small park, Joshua carrying his basketball. While Ernie and I rested under a catalpa tree, Joshua shot baskets on a court at the far corner of the park. He knew we were watching him.

Re-joining us, he jumped high to snag a long, skinny catalpa pod to give his daddy. Joshua knew the story . . . the boy Ernie climbing atop garage roofs to snag catalpa pods and smoking them, Huck Finn style, with his neighborhood buddies.

But Ernie didn’t smile when Joshua handed him the Indian cigar. No. He didn’t think back to his boyhood.

That Sunday, he was between surgeries. Two weeks before, his bladder tumor had been scraped out, as much as the surgeon could scrape out, and two weeks hence, his bladder and prostate would be removed, making his penis obsolete.

No, Ernie didn’t remember our fortieth wedding anniversary. How could he? And I didn’t remind him. Why would I? He was eighty years old, facing a complicated, seven-hour surgery that would change his life. Or maybe end his life.

We didn’t talk of that, either.

I took photos of Ernie that day. I let the camera face what I didn’t.

The film is still in the camera.

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.