Had I been staying with my parents, or other brothers, they'd have gotten up with me at dawn to see me off, but I was at Douglas', so of course, I said goodbye the night before.

He's always been the family sleeper, the kind you never find awake until after the sun. Call him Saturdays at 10 a.m. and you'll often hear a groggy voice ask why you're bothering him so early. This at age 40.He's at the other extreme when awake, the poster boy for adult hyperactivity. He's known to decide Friday afternoon to go skiing in Colorado and be on a flight three hours later. At age 40.

So it didn't surprise me that he didn't become a parent until a month ago, at 41. Sleeping in and skiing on impulse don't mesh with babies.

"Catch you next time," I said to Douglas and headed to the guest room, where I looked around and thought thank goodness he's married. His wife, Jenny, has not only civilized his existence but that of his visitors.

The guest room now had an actual lamp, a made bed and folded towels. And the quilt matched the decor. None of that happened when he was single.

I set the alarm for 4:30 to make a 6:15 out of O'Hare, then turned off the light, telling myself I'd need every minute of sleep.

I didn't get it. Something woke me at 4.

Through the door, in the near-dark, there were two things I'd never seen before. Douglas awake at this hour. And Douglas feeding a newborn with a burp-cloth on a shoulder more commonly covered by a Patagonia backpack.

Lila was drinking with her eyes half-closed. I sat on the couch next to him and allowed that he wasn't half-bad at this. I mean for a rookie.

He told me I was looking at a pro - he'd been at this a whole month - and more important, he added, I was looking at the . . .

"I know. The most adorable child on earth."

"So it's obvious," he said.

"Thank God she looks like her mother."

"Thank God," said Douglas.

As we sat, I noticed a third thing I'd never seen before. Douglas doing only one thing at a time.

Did he want me to put on the TV? He shrugged; didn't need it.

I'd never known him to not need distraction.

"Who are you," I asked, "and what have you done to my brother Douglas?"

He nodded at Lila. "Blame her."

"Babies are dangerous that way. If you're not careful, they'll change you."

He said he'd figured that out. Too late.

I picked up the remote and began channel surfing. I'd forgotten about 4 a.m. TV. Everywhere, someone on an infomercial was selling something. Douglas had historically been an easy mark for such things. Advertise a Veg-O-Matic, Douglas will buy it.

I offered to call if he wanted anything.

"Don't need it," he kept saying.

Since when did he see a difference between need and want?

"Are you sure you're all right?"

He was. He couldn't remember when he'd been this all right.

"How about when you went white-water rafting in Chile that time?"

Close, he said. But this may beat that. He'd think on it and get back to me.

Soon, the bottle was empty. And my cab was due. I stood up.

"Catch you next time," I said again.

"We'll be here."

Then he headed upstairs, Lila asleep in his arms, Douglas awake for the day, even though the sun was not yet up.