I sensed its presence at the open patio door before I actually saw it.
The air shifted somehow which drew my attention away from the television program I was watching on euthanasia. It eventually slithered under the door and lay coiled against the curvature of the fireplace hearth. The rattlesnake almost looked as though it belonged there, nestled comfortably, and for the time being, silently.
I pondered what my move should be: Get a broom and sweep it out of the house? Get a broom and sweep it towards my dad’s bedroom? As his dementia had already eaten into his cognition and my patience, that might serve as a remedy to end our mutual misery. I decided finally to call 9-1-1 and explain the situation to them. Would they be able to lay claim to this intruder and conveyor of all my criminal thoughts?
The EMTs arrived sooner than when my husband lay dying on the living room couch. I thought that odd. This was just a snake after all, not the Grim Reaper. There was an air of festivity as one of the firemen exclaimed, “It’s a rattler, alright.”
Break out the champagne.
I pretended to care about what would happen to the snake. Would they kill it? Could I watch? The fireman told me they would drive to an isolated area and let it go in the desert. Oh, sure. The minute I close the front door, they’ll drop it alongside my house and run like hell. Wish I could.
I know my dad wishes he could as well. The day after the big snake adventure, he questioned me about where he was, thinking I was a visitor and not his daughter with whom he had been living for the past three years. He wondered where the doors were in this ‘building’ so he could escape. I explained this was our home with many doors all available to him if he could walk or get out of bed. He mulled this over. I told him of the rattlesnake that had entered the living room and he was surprised that the firemen had come to the house for a reason other than to pick him up off the floor.
“They asked about you,” I told him. He was pleased, thinking he was once again the center of attention.
Actually, they wondered if he was dead yet, although they didn’t quite phrase it that way.
“How’s your dad,” was more the question.
“Oh, he’s still hanging in there,” leaving out how he wants to escape the boundaries of his decaying, useless body. Too morose.
He died a month later. The headline to his obituary should have read: Escaped Life Imprisonment. Instead I wrote of his life’s achievements, leaving out his womanizing and disregard for his children. He was a powerful force of life, and yet, it’s odd to feel relieved that he has given up that struggle because I miss him so much.
Marlene DeVere is a native Chicagoan, who has lived in most sections of the country as well as in the Middle East; however, it has been the inner journey—explored through writing memoirs—that has been the most satisfying. She is now living in Tucson, Arizona and working on a collection of short stories.
Photo by Duncan Sanchez.