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

My sister Jude calls. Her voice is very caring. “How are you?” she asks.

I’m seated on the floor, my back propped against the long camelback. My voice is low. I don’t sound like the person I used to be. I take long pauses. I don’t know what to say next. My eyes sting, close. Tears come.

“It’s been almost a year since Ernie died, and you still blame yourself for his death. You need help.”

Jude has attended Al-Anon meetings.

“Ernie was an alcoholic. Go to an Al-Anon meeting. Try it out. In the meantime, let me send you a few books.”

Jude sends me five books. One title jumps out at me. Adult Children: Secrets of a Dysfunctional Family. I read it. I realize: I’m an Adult Child. I realize: Ernie and I were in a dysfunctional relationship. Not only that, it was probably what John and Linda Friel, the book’s authors, call co-dependent. Jesus. I can’t absorb this all by myself.

The therapist I met with back in August I only went to twice. Talking with her didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere because I was just saying to her what I already knew. But perhaps I wasn’t ready for real help then. Maybe I am now.

The Friels list support groups in the back of their book. Groups exist for Adult Children. Groups exist for co-dependents.

On the internet, I look up local Al-Anon meetings. One calls itself a support group for Adult Children. It meets weekly in a church hall only a short walk away. I will go.

Can people like me help me?



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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.