My brother passed away some time early to mid-last week. Sadly, we don't know the exact date of his passing. I am thankful that I was the one to find him, as that spared others, including his wife or my brother Rich, from that terrible visual.
Christopher Paul Albert lived a full life, and was many things, including a very proud father, husband, son, friend, veteran of the United States Navy (Naval Med Corpsman, stationed with the Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina), altar server, former postal carrier in Lodi (New Jersey), amateur boxer, a graduate of Montclair State University, fan of the manual transmission, cook, Republican, lover of cats, talk radio consumer, music aficionado (especially the Rolling Stones and the Doors), runner, voracious reader of biographies, a genuinely funny person, federal government IT guy, gifted with gab, and tireless rebel without a cause. He also knew precisely how to infuriate his older brothers (especially me) with a level of efficiency that would make a Japanese automobile manufacturer nod in approval.
One of my oldest memories of Chris was, as at a very young age, his repeated habit of running arms first into glass storm doors, cutting himself up like someone working at an OSHA-fined meat-packing plant. I kid you not. This was then...
In his early teens he was, as noted above, an amateur boxer, having had several bouts under his belt at the Scranton Catholic Youth Center.
It was a perfect way for a teenager with pent-up feelings to deal with the world. Back then Rich and I would taunt him by saying things like "Sure Chris, you'll be a boxer...you'll be boxing apples, pears, and pineapples at the local Acme supermarket". Brothers can be such jerks.
Recently, he held the world's record for most number of overnight calls to Steve Albert, set at 13, between 8 pm and the following 10 am. It's a record that's not likely to be broken, if ever.
As he grew older, he was someone who increasingly struggled to make it in a world that seemed to offer fewer and fewer easy choices as time quickly past him by. I repeatedly told him that he held on to amounts of unexpressed emotion that were, at best, unhealthy. So much anger and pain boiling so deep under the surface, which some may view as odd, given his easy smile and ability to tell you what he thought about anything and everything...except of course for, I suspect, the very things that troubled him the most. But I knew things that most other's didn't; we were, after all, two part of a band of (real) brothers, with a shared set of experiences. I don't claim to know his pain, but I know where part of it came from.
Now if there's to be a moral to his passing, it would be something like this: In life and in the end, we can't ever really deny how we feel, our inner demons if you want to call them that; we either choose to face the demons honestly, or we allow those same demons to destroy us from the inside out through passive, or even active, neglect. For the record, we all have our own inner demons and we all have to make this choice, whether we want to or not. Life has a way of always settling accounts.
So now what's left are a lifetime of memories to be held close by all who knew Chris.
(About 1970 - Band of Brothers, Dressed in Easter Best: Chris, Rich, Steve &Joe)
(April, 2010 - Chris, wearing a shirt I bought him that perfectly matched his sense of humor)
(July 3, 2015 - My Wedding: Chris, Joe, Steve & Rich)
(Meeting of the Round Glasses Club, Somewhere in the 90's - Mom, Steve & Chris)
Finally, I'd like to believe that Chris is now in another place, a better place, with our Mom, once and for all reconciled in a way that escaped both of them in this life. No more anger. No more rebellion against things he probably never fully understood. No more denial and the demons have been vanquished forever. Chris and Mom are both now fully absolved and cleansed, resting in peace together. Then again, they could also be arguing about the last presidential election.
* * * * * *
In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
"I am leaving, I am leaving"
But the fighter still remains
(Paul Simon, The Boxer)
(Paul Simon, The Boxer)