“Did He Say, Ernest?!”

This is one of my favorite stories on marriage.

Our good friends had been married only a few years when they went to see the movie, “Saving Private Ryan.” This film is based on the invasion of Normandy in World War II. It follows of a group of solders, led by Captain John H. Miller(Tom Hanks), who have been assigned to find a young private whose three other brothers had been killed in the war effort. They were messengers of mercy because it was their job to find James Ryan(Matt Damon) and tell him that he had been granted a ticket home by General Eisenhower.

But when they find the young man, he refuses to go home. He tells them that his comrades are now the only brothers he has, and will not abandon them. This leaves the assigned soldiers in a dilemma. Having lost a few of their own men in the search and rescue mission, they did not want to see their job go unfulfilled and in essence feel the waste of their groups sacrifice. In the meantime, they get caught up in a German assault trying to secure a critical bridge in Normandy with this unit that is not their own.

The movie culminates in a dramatic scene where Captain John H. Miller has been mortally wounded while protecting this bridge in a place he would not have been had it not been for this private. When the reenforcement American P51 planes arrive and success seemingly attained, the captain looks around stunned as he takes in the sheer mass of destruction and loss of life. He looks at Private Ryan, then reaches up and struggles to utter two, very weighty, words. Ryan doesn’t understand him. So, Captain Miller uses the last bit of his strength to pull himself up and in this young man’s ear says, “Earn This.”

At that moment of  entreaty, one that will go on to define this character’s ENTIRE life, my friend leans over to her husband who is completely entranced and locked into the movie screen. She interjects seriously confused and a bit too loudly says, “Did he say Ernest!!??” “Who’s Ernest??!!” Jolted out of this powerful moment, he turned to her and said incredulously, “He said, Earn This.”

I laughed so hard the first time I heard this story over dinner together. The husband to this day will go face down and shake his head when it is told, though about 11 years later he finds it amusing. But, I laughed, partly because I love this woman and find her so funny, but also because of my immediate thought, which was how rare it is that two people are on the same page together at the same time.

I think of this story when my husband and I are seeing the same thing from two completely different vantage points. So much so that an interjection takes the steam right out of the one who is feeling passionate about a matter or an instance. It is a powerful dissuasion, because it is seldom in an instance as innocuous as a movie pinnacle.

And often times it is difficult to get the moment back. Which is why one of my goals this year is to simply, listen better. I know that hearing others more clearly, even what is unsaid, will be worth the earning.

5 thoughts on ““Did He Say, Ernest?!”

  1. I was telling Chad about “ernest” and he told me a story about David and Carol Like. They were in the movies watching the last, very poignant scenes of “Beaches” when he leaned in and asked the tearful Carol, “Honey, when we get home, will you check me for fleas? I think I picked one up when I was cutting the grass.”

  2. Thanks for the reminder of the fact that men and women differ. Your story may be one of a few where it is the female who fails to listen clearly. Typically it’s the male who listen’s half way.

  3. When i visit a blog, chances are that I see that the construction is poor and the writting bad. On the contrary,I could honestly say that you writting is decent and your website solid.

  4. Earn this makes so much more sense. My fiancee was watching Saving Private Ryan and I joined her at the tale end. We both looked at each other and concluded he said Earnest but couldn’t figure out why. Good news: We’re both on the same page. Bad news: It’s the wrong page. Thanks for getting us on the right one 😉

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