The rattlesnake that crept into my brother’s backyard alarmed him. At some two feet long, he figured, it hid in the planter behind the pool, his dog Tucker whining at it and yipping. Tucker didn’t get bit and my brother hasn’t gotten the snake. He’s too busy. At 51, he’s about to be a dad for the first time, an adventure on which his two younger brothers have already embarked.
Rattlesnakes are common in Southern California. No, they don’t come crawling into homes searching for prey, though I imagine if they tracked a rat or a mouse through an open door, they could do so. Generally speaking, they’ll get out of your way, too. They don’t want to mess with you. You’re too big and they’re not big enough to eat you. But surprise them, trip on one of their homes, and you’ll pay a pretty hefty price. They have the added advantage of the rattle, but the fact is unless you heed the rattle and stop and move away when you hear it–well…
Doug’s fine. He didn’t get bitten. Like I said, he’s too busy. And nervous. He reminds me of me about 11 years ago. I was the same way. Having a child is big work and it totally subsumes the person you used to be. I’m not telling you anything new if you’re a parent. But if you’re not, and you’re reading this–please know–marriage doesn’t really change you. Having children does–so profoundly that you simply won’t be the same person ever again. And no one believes that until they become a parent.
For Doug, it’s an experiment later in life. He was married previously, but his first wife passed away unexpectedly and sadly. It broke him, as it would any man, and he spent many years attempting to rebuild some pretty shattered remains. While he was rebuilding, he met another woman and she enticed him. They married-but it didn’t last. That kind never does.
He forced himself into exile and allowed grief to wash over him. It wasn’t for nothing, though. He found a renewed strength and sense of purpose. He found God-or perhaps, God found him. He decided to replenish a weary soul and set himself on a new path and that new path included forging a whole new career-one that gave him the opportunity to travel, perhaps too much.
But in his travels, he disciplined himself. He didn’t sit in bars drinking all night. He didn’t give into hedonism. In fact, he explored good food and wine and kept up a punishing workout routine that, to this day, allows him to look many years younger than his age. He moved around a bit, mostly in the Bay Area but then settled on a modest, but hip and well-appointed flat in Sacramento, a few blocks from the State Capitol. He felt somewhat at peace. He slept nights and he gained understanding, he says.
It was around that time that he began talking about Katy. She was someone he worked with when he traveled to Alabama and they hit it off. They’d known each other professionally for sometime before he screwed up his courage enough to ask her out. When he did, she said yes–and he was thrilled. He spent weeks preparing for the date.
The relationship worked from the beginning. Though younger than Doug, Katy balanced him. He didn’t idolize her, but he grew to love her in a way that both respected her complete deep Southern individuality and spared her the dotage of a man who could have simply gushed it openly.
Katy left behind all she knew when she left Alabama. She’s still tied to the place, though. Her parents, her sister and her sister’s fiance and her nephew are all there–the whole extended family. She was born and raised in Birmingham and she’s an Auburn University girl.
She owned a home there and had a good job and she was happy for the most part. Meeting Doug was happenstance, not planned. But with something more than whim, Katy created a whole new life with my brother. In what seemed a fell swoop, but was actually a well-calculated plan, Katy sold her house, packed her belongings and moved west to California to be with him.
Their wedding, more than a year after they met, was singular and beautiful. Held in Sonoma, California, the same place I proposed to my wife, Sue, the family and friends gathered for a weekend of celebration and new life together. That was July, 2011 and it was a trip, a day, that our families will never forget. It was wonderful.
Doug and Katy moved here to Ventura County near my family and me and we’ve grown close. They’re people of more means than we are, but that’s no matter. It actually doesn’t come into play much. We spend time together when we can, share meals, talk and enjoy each other greatly.
They announced Katy’s pregnancy 9 months ago with the excitement befitting such an event. Though Doug is older, he has no children and because he looks younger, acts younger-it just doesn’t feel odd. It feels right.
Tonight, Sue and I drove to Bob Hope Airport to pick up Katy’s parents who flew in to visit while Doug drove Katy to Los Robles Hospital. The doctor is inducing this evening and sometime in the next day or so, Madelynn Grace will grace the world-and my brother’s and his wife’s lives–and all of ours too.
That snake was a metaphor–a hypervariable who came to visit at a most inopportune time. No one has seen it since–it probably gave up because there was nothing to eat in that garden and left. Who knows? Life does that. It takes twists and turns you never expect and some are good and some aren’t, and some, as John Steinbeck said, are “so beautiful, they refire the faith forever.” Here’s to rekindling the faith-and to the birth of my new niece.