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

Book One, Part Two, Chapter 117: Priorities

My bathroom sink looks as if a thousand camels spat into it. The mirror above the sink is so splattered I have to stand on tiptoe to find a space clear enough to see my face. The kitchen floor is still so gummy that my bare feet stick to it.

A careless, neglectful person lives here, Ernie would think. I think: I must have cleaned for Ernie.

On certain Sunday evenings, while he watched the Mystery series on PBS, I would wax the kitchen floor and clean the bathroom. It made me feel good. It was my contribution to our well-being. To see him wipe a days-old spill from the kitchen floor made me feel guilty. That was my job. To see him even do a few dishes while he waited for his tea water to boil made me feel guilty. Dishes were my job, too.

Ernie loved order. Now, stuff is all about. There isn’t a place for everything, and very little is in its place.

Most of all, Ernie’s not here. Even if I clean and find a place for everything, or give away what I don’t find a place for or no longer need — which would be major decision-making for me — nothing will ever really be in its place because Ernie’s not here.

He’s supposed to be on the bed, reading or watching TV. He’s supposed to be on the camelback, writing. He’s supposed to be lying next to me, asleep, or telling me his dream, or talking on the phone to Joshua. He’s supposed to be with me, dammit.

He’s not here, and I feel displaced. I don’t know where I’m supposed to be.

Every day, I put myself under a tree to write. I’m trying to make order of my life through this writing. That’s all I know to do right now. That’s all I’m capable of doing right now.

What if Ernie’s and my top priority had been keeping us both healthy and happy, and keeping our marriage going and growing? What if we’d talked about how to make that happen?

Everything would have been so different then.

Everything would be so different now.

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.