Thursday, December 25, 2003

Our Louisianan

Here's another family story, about a death and a birth and the consolation in continuity.


Date: Thursday, December 25, 2003
Edition: Palm Beach Section: LOCAL Page: 1B

On this morning given to pondering the miracle of new birth and the promise of ongoing life, I have a story to tell.

You couldn't call it a Christmas story, for that holiday is not the tradition of our family, and this story is personal. But its meanings are open for anyone, and you are invited to pick your own.

It begins with a man named Lee Rubin.

Around his adopted town of Lafayette, La., he stood out for his red hair and for being a Jewish New Yorker who had drifted south and reinvented himself as a red-necked Louisianan.

He was a stubborn and independent guy who, in his younger days, could be counted on to start a barroom fight or drive his pickup into a ditch at the end of a hell-raising Saturday night.

When I met him, about 15 years ago, he was taking pride in a prodigious beer belly. And he was getting ready to marry a woman he'd met in Mexico named Maria Teresa and to bring her to the United States to live with him in Cajun country.

They wed. They had a son. And Lee settled down into an irregular domesticity. He worked weeks at a time offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, helping energy companies figure out how to get their drill bits down to where the oil was.

On the job, he was a respected engineer and decision-maker.

At home he became a board member of his synagogue, a small but stubborn group with roots in Lafayette dating back to 1869.

He was my wife's younger brother. But he was distant from us in some ways that went beyond geography, and we didn't connect with Lee and his family very often.

That would change this year.