By: Jerry Metcalf
(Continued from Part 1 – posted on March 12, 2021)
Ernie’s drinking had landed him in trouble both at home and at work, and drinking had also landed me in trouble in both places as well. I still recall stumbling onto a job site early one morning, hung over, and reeking of alcohol. My boss, Don, cussed me out and sent me home after I spent two hours constructing and installing an interior wall that wasn’t even on the blueprint for the house we were building.
Ernie had once gotten shit-faced drunk and rode around all night in his car with a shotgun laid across his lap while searching for a man who’d earlier kicked the crap out of him. I too had made a similar mistake, only I’d found the man I’d been looking for and ended up shooting him to death, landing myself in prison for a really lengthy stay.
I couldn’t believe how akin our lives were. More importantly, I couldn’t believe how happy a person Ernie seemed to be while living a completely sober life. That intrigued me more than anything. I’d been craving happiness and serenity my entire life, and just didn’t know how or where to find it.
“Heard anything you can relate to, young man?” Ernie asked me after he’d finished his story. “That’s what we do here. We relate. We never compare. Here, everyone is equal.” He dabbed sweat from his brow with a folded up handkerchief.
“Yes, Sir,” I answered, stunned. I did relate. On multiple levels.
Ernie smiled. He’d been blessed with such a kind, wide smile. I’ll never forget it. “I figured you would. Sometimes, like knows like. You just got yourself a good case of the ‘fuck its’ that’s all. That’ll pass though, if you keep coming.”
And it did pass. For ten years (every Saturday night at 6:25 on the dot) I eagerly hiked up front to our facility’s Control Center so I could visit with my friend, Ernest. Not an A.A. meeting passed where I didn’t steal some tidbit of wisdom from Ernie. His sayings are now my sayings. His teachings are now my teachings. I’ll continue to pass them down until the day I die, which is what Ernie did.
Ernest, my friend and mentor, a man I loved with all my heart, crossed over to dwell with his Lord two weeks ago. I wanted so badly to parole out of prison and spend some time with Ernie as a free man, even though I knew the likelihood of that ever happening was slim due to Ernie’s age and the amount of time I have left. But I still dreamed. Ernie and I often talked about hanging out in the free world, maybe catching the Michigan / Michigan State game (I love the University of Michigan, and Ernie was a diehard State fan), or attending some A.A. conferences together.
Now that dream is shattered. Now, all I can do is capture a tiny bit of Ernie’s humble greatness on paper. A little about how he transformed my life, and the lives of so many others, during the twenty seven years he drove east from Flint Michigan down I-69 through rain, sleet, or snow to mentor us. To remind us we were still loved.
Ernie was the one free person outside of my family whom I knew, without a doubt, believed I had changed. I’ll never be able to express how important that was to my mental and spiritual rehabilitation. Ernie possessed the knack for finding the best in people and watering it until it blossomed.
I miss you, Ernie. We all miss you. The world misses you.
Goodbye, my friend. You were a beacon of hope in a sea of darkness.
God bless you, and God speed.
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