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

Book One, Part Two, Chapter 112: A Mess, a Failure

For months, Bella has been after me to clean my kitchen’s black-and-white vinyl floor.

She targets the floor, but she can just as easily target the stainless-steel sink, black with gunk; or the stove, splashed with cocoa milk; or the white tiled counter, sprinkled with black pepper and sugar and bread crumbs. And that’s just the kitchen.

Ernie would be aghast at the mess I’ve made of these rooms. “I don’t mind dust or dirt, but I hate clutter,” he often said.

This place is dusty, dirty, and cluttered. Once or twice I’ve made a feeble attempt at a cleanup, but I always stop almost before I start.

Why my resistance?

The short answer is: cleaning these rooms — and also cooking — makes me angry, and I don’t want to feel angry. Feeling angry makes me angry.

Ernie wrote novels and short stories and turf articles and a memoir and found ways to make money and did the taxes and gassed the car and did the banking and counseled Joshua and me and bought and sold property and repaired toilets and planned fun and . . . the list goes on and on.

He pushed himself. Then pushed himself more. He did so much and still felt like a failure.

Now, so do I.

Perhaps this is the source of my anger: I am angry at myself.

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.