PREVIOUSLY: Ernie finally finds a woman he can live with. Customers? Not so much.
On a recent day, Marika is busy in the kitchen as Ernie sits in his wheelchair near the bakery’s glass display case.
There are no regrets.
He has told Marika the stories about all the women who have passed through his life, like sugary powder through his fingers.
So, how many were there?
“Fifty,” Ernie laughs.
“No,” Marika says. “Fifty-thousand.”
But for Ernie, there has been one huge regret: His loss of Helen.
When she died in 2010, Ernie asked to be able to speak at her funeral.
It was last- minute, so the rabbi made room for him in the program, Marianne recalled.
When Ernie stood at the podium, before all the people he had known with his first wife, he talked for 45 minutes, telling stories from Helen’s childhood, the Holocaust, right up until the day she died.
She had aged like a fine wine, elegant to the last.
He wanted people to know that.
Several times, Ernie broke down in tears and had to stop before continuing. Marika was there, watching.
“Ernie would not let people see him cry. So it was significant when wept at Helen’s funeral,” Marianne said. “You could tell the love he had for that woman still.”
That night, Ernie stayed alone in Helen’s home. He slept in her bed.
For Marianne, it was a rare glimpse inside the emotions of a man who never showed his cards.
Years later, in the bakery, Ernie is asked if Helen was the love of his life.
Marika is sitting next to him.
He does not flinch.
He does not even look at her.
“Yes,” he says. “She was.”
NEXT WEEK: Ernie’s life in pictures