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

Book One, Part Two, Chapter Five: Think Straight

It’s upon awakening and before falling asleep that I’m most at the mercy of my perilous thoughts.

At night, I’ve begun to watch Charlie Rose and Tavis Smiley. Tonight, Charlie’s guest is a South African playwright who says: “It’s bad to die with regrets.” The playwright even reminds me of Ernie: white hair, expressive face and voice, fluid talker. No escape for me tonight.

Tavis’s guest is Mikhail Baryshnikov. “Thinking is all important,” Mikhail says. “Think straight, and everything else falls into place — the feelings, the action. Thinking comes first.”

How many times did Ernie say to me: “Think, Ernestina. Think before you speak.” Or he’d say: “Get straight, Ernestina.” Or he’d say: “You’d confuse a Philadelphia lawyer.” And he said: “No one else could live with you.”

“I know the truth,” he once said. “I know the truth about everyone.”

“What is it?” I asked him.

“If I told you, it would destroy you.”

“Tell me,” I said.

He shook his head. He wouldn’t. Not then. Later, he did. In angry bursts. And I still didn’t get it.

I’m beginning to now.

(Author’s Note: In reference to the Mikhail Baryshnikov quote, this is what I know now. In the evolution of the human species, feelings were in place long before higher cognitive ability. Feelings are our primal connection to ourselves. Fear and anger and joy and pain and sadness and guilt help direct us and protect us. They help us make decisions. Our feelings inform our thinking, and our thinking manages our feelings. They work together.

Lost to my feelings from a very young age, completely detached from them, no wonder I was so removed from myself and so removed from Ernie.)

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.