My Trip to Ernie

Ernie and me, circa 1943.

In his final days my younger brother Ernie did not—as Dylan Thomas wrote in his classic poem—”rage, rage, against the dimming of the light.” During his extended hospice care the only time he expressed anger about anything, least of all his dire situation, was when the Virginia traffic authorities tried to revoke his driving permit for backing into a handicapped sign in a parking lot. Ernie said that constituted a crime against his “God-given” right as an American citizen, and he wasn’t joking. But at least that story turned out well. After extensive eye, health and driving tests, his permit and tags were reinstated. And he kept driving for several months.

Ernie joked a lot. Sharp mind, witty mouth. And he was an excellent armature cartoonist. While he was in hospice care, he even suggested an idea for a gag cartoon and collaborated with me on it via our cellphones. Before sending it off to my distributor,, I also posted the finished product on this blog. If you check out his slightly dark gag you may understand how a person in Ernie’s circumstances—assuming a great sense of humor, might come up with such an idea.

When I visited Ernie very near the end of his life he took me on an “exiting” drive up the crazy windy roads from my home town of Covington, Virginia, to the Homestead Resort in Warm Springs. Even then, hunched down in his seat, his driving technique was mostly smooth and professional. Except, that is, the time he answered a call with the car in motion. I took a long beat and gently suggested that I’d appreciate it if he didn’t do it again. He didn’t, even though his phone signaled several times. He also drove back down the mountain with a short pullover at Falling Springs, Va., very near where our mother was born, so I could walk the short distance to view the beautiful 200-foot cascade. Ernie remained sitting in the car next to his mobile oxygen tank. Unlike in years past, the few steps to the view he loved were too many for him.

Ernie and I had been a creative team for a long time. That included a dish washing stint that began around ages six and eight. A year or two after the above picture was snapped, our mother began to stand us on kitchen chairs at the sink each day—sometimes twice a day—for our domestic chore; I’d wash and he’d dry.

No more chores with Ernie. I’ll never again talk with him on the phone once or twice a day, chat about this and that—family, baseball, and many other subjects. My younger brother (by 15 months), Ernest Berkley Sizemore, died one week before Thanksgiving on November 16, 2017.

Dylan Thomas, 19141953

12 Responses to My Trip to Ernie

  1. Sue Royer says:

    Hi Jim, What a nice recollection. I’m sorry he’s no longer here. Sue

    On Mon, Jan 1, 2018 at 4:27 AM Doodlemeister’s Weblog wrote:

    > Jim posted: ” Ernie and me, circa 1943. In his final days my younger > brother Ernie did not—as Dylan Thomas wrote in his classic poem—”rage, > rage, against the dimming of the light.” During his extended hospice care > the only time he expressed anger about anything,” >

  2. Florence says:

    What a bitter-sweet, funny-sad tribute to Ernie and your lifelong relationship to him.

  3. Bob Hale says:

    Very touching, Jim. That reminds me of my brother Tom. He was struck with prostate cancer, had an operation, and seemed to recover. Some years later he developed 2 or 3 kinds of cancer. Rather than become an invalid who needed constant care, he took his own life. He was 9 years younger than me. May 2018 be a happier year for all of us.

  4. Jim says:

    Sorry about your brother, Bob. And I’m also sorry you didn’t get to enjoy his company—as I did Ernie—for the last 18 months of his life, albeit mostly on the phone.

  5. Jim says:

    Thank you so much for the comment, Flo. And so very glad you and Howard had the opportunity to meet Ernie — however briefly — especially in such a generous situation. I’ll be forever thankful to you for that. Hope to see you early and often in 2018 . . .

  6. Jim says:

    Hi Sue, and thank you for the thought. I have the feeling that you would have liked Ernie, and he you . . .

  7. Alvera Winkler says:

    Though I am sorry that you lost your brother, I liked hearing about him. Each snippet adds another piece to my picture of you and your interesting family. You were adorable little boys!

  8. Jim says:

    Thank you Alvera. Yes, I’ve always loved that image of the two of us. We were in our prime (the first one).

  9. Regina Pilardi says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Jim. This is a lovely tribute.

  10. Jim says:

    Thank you for the comment, Regina. I Saw you sister Saturday for a trip to the theater and dinner. She told me all about your holiday visit.

  11. Jo-Ann Pilardi says:

    Ernest was one of the most likable people I’ve ever met. He was very attuned to other people, his sense of humor constant and playful. It was always a treat to see the two of you together, teasing and joking. Seemed to me that your mother knew there was no way to contain the energy between her two youngest sons!
    I’m sorry his life was full of hard physical work, but glad he found a wonderful community of people in his church who helped him through his life, as they helped him through his final illness.
    The strong bond between you, and the conversations you had during his final year, undoubtedly helped him to face what he knew was coming, as it helped you to face losing him. What a testimonial to the creative teamwork you two were capable of that you could produce a “gag” cartoon in his last few months. Rest in Peace, Ernie.

  12. Jim says:

    Thank you for the lovely tribute to Ernie, Jo-Ann. To be honest, the only thing I can add is that — as you know — my mother, with her own wry sense of humor, would sometimes state that she couldn’t understand the negative tension that often arose between her two youngest sons . . .

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