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

Book One, Part One, Chapter 32: Pink Inside

Doctors at the hospital determine that Mary Lee’s intestine is blocked.

“When she fell out of bed, she must have twisted it,” one says. “We need to operate to untwist it.”

“What’s the prognosis?” Ernie asks.

“The operation’s a simple one. We think she’ll recover nicely.”

Ernie agrees to it, and the operation’s a success.

“She looks like a young girl inside,” the surgeon tells us afterward. “So pink. And while I was at it, I fixed her hernia, too.”

“That’ll make Mother feel really good,” Ernie says. “Her hernia’s bothered her for years.”

Ernie and I visit Mary Lee in the intensive-care unit. She looks anxious. “Do I have diabetes?”

“You don’t have diabetes,” I tell her. “Your blood-sugar level was elevated because we fed you gelatin when you couldn’t keep anything else down.”

At home, we give Joshua a progress report.

“I want to visit her, too,” he says, so that Saturday we take him with us.

“This is the hospital where you were born,” I say as we head to the elevator.

He looks up at me. “When I nearly hit my head on the sidewalk?”

He’s heard stories of my water’s breaking, of his head’s crowning, and he’s imagined himself dropping out between my legs, falling head-first onto hard concrete.

“I’d have caught you, Joshua.”

I wasn’t an imaginative child. Ernie was, and Joshua is. Who knows what they imagine?

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.