Ernestina
2 min readSep 23, 2021

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

Book One, Part Two, Chapter 177: D-Day

It’s the afternoon of the seventh of December, Ernie’s Death Day. He died one year ago today.

Joshua and I are in the quiet second-floor quarters of my brother’s house, where Josh is staying as he recovers from a series of panic attacks. He’s sitting in a chair under the skylight.

I bring up Charles Street again, trying to be more positive about it.

“Don’t talk to me of Charles Street,” he says. “I’m not up for Charles Street. I can’t take on Charles.” He rubs his chest. “This hurts. You aren’t putting yourself in my shoes. You don’t know how bad this hurts. I need space.”

I go downstairs. When I come back an hour later, his chest still hurts. “The worst yet. Need air. Fresh air. Feel as if I can’t breathe.”

He moves to the two front windows, cranks the right one open and leans out, breathing deeply. He grabs two pillows to raise himself, then rests his head on the window sill. I see only his heavily lashed left eye as he talks to himself, soothing himself. “I’m okay. The doctor says I’m okay. I’m healthy. I’ll heal. Just classic symptoms of panic attack, he told me. I’m okay. I’m healthy. I got checked out. I’m okay.”

Joshua speaks so softly, I can barely hear him.

“I loved my daddy. He was eighty. He had a hard life. His body was riddled with cancer. He had an incompetent doctor. That’s why he died. . . . I love my mama. She’s not as sensitive as I am. I’m not crazy. I’m just tired, worn out. I’ll be okay. . . . I have a girlfriend who’s sometimes nice, sometimes abusive. She doesn’t know how to nurture. She wasn’t brought up by nurturing parents. . . . Maybe I can trick myself into thinking myself well. Go to support groups. Listen to others. Maybe they know tricks. Listening to how they solve their problems might help me solve mine.

“I am not my daddy. I am my own person. I am not my daddy. I want to get well. I want to pull out of this. It’s been over two weeks.”

I want to go to him, to hold him, but I don’t. He is my child, my son, and I don’t know how to hold him. I don’t know what to say.

NOTE: This marks the end of Book One, Ernie and Ernestina: The Writer, His Wife, and their Afterlife.

It would be an act of kindness to let me know what you think about this writing and if you’re willing to read more. That will help me decide whether to begin posting a chapter a day from Book Two — Ernie and Ernestina: Searching.

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Ernestina

My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 2-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.