It’s times like this when I don’t have much to do and it’s Christmas that my mind takes me back in time to when my youngest brother was born. Since he was the baby of our family he got a lot of attention. Everyone wanted to hold him and cuddle him. He was better than any doll we got at Christmas. He squirmed and giggled with six girls vying for his attention. You might say he ate the attention all up!
There had been two girls in between Andy and him, so Dad was in love with his new son as well. And of course, Mom was in love with him so much that she named him for the love of her life, Albert. He was Albert or Junior or Albert Junior and we all adored him. He was so cute with his blonde hair that could be curly when it got a little long. He was a bundle of joy with those big blue eyes to keep us entranced. I was ten at the time and dolls weren’t doing it for me anymore. I liked the sweet smell of a tiny baby after a nice wash in the sink, peppered with Johnsons Baby Powder. I loved that powder so much I used to sprinkle it on me when I was having a pan wash in my parents’ bedroom, the one private place in the house when you put a knife in the doorjam. Water had to be boiled for a bath so this was an easier option.
We all looked after Albert. We wanted to take him everywhere with us and show him off. He was just so cute and sweet. At that time we weren’t looking at boys, so this was the best thing in the world. A handsome baby in a stroller who loved you to pieces when you paid attention to his every movement and cry!
I can’t recall Albert getting into trouble much as a child, and since I left home when he was only seven, I probably wouldn’t be informed about his escapades as a teenager. Although I know some of his best buddies in Pasadena would have many stories to relay and perhaps at Come Home Year 2012 I will get to hear some of them. I’m sure my sister Helen or Carolann would have a few but they might not want to tell them!
So to me my brother will be forever young, as most memories of him are those before his teenage years. After that I saw him only when I visited my parents and when Mom died I saw him only as an adult. I remember one birthday that I was visiting with my sons and I decided to make him a chocolate cake from scratch. I’ve since learned that Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker are much better at the cakes than I am! I had the real butter and chunks of real chocolate. I must have spent a fortune for all the ingredients, only to have the cake turn out like a chunk of coal! It was so heavy with a taste that you would not walk a few metres to experience. I had to apologize to Albert and told him I would go to the store and get a cake mix. The humiliation of it all! And I wasn’t rich back there so all that money was gone down the drain!
During our visits when he was in grade nine or ten, I kept stressing the importance of him finishing his high school education. He assured me that he was still in school and that he was going to graduate. I was so proud of him! He also told me he had taken up boxing. I believed him about still being a student and I certainly believed that he was involved in boxing, as his body was muscled and in good shape. I later learned that he had been pulling my leg. He had dropped out of school and he didn’t want to tell me. Apparently no one else wanted to tell me either!
I know that Albert was always searching for the one woman he could settle down with in his hometown. He became a carpenter after high school. He had his own house started before he met with his tragic end and he was so proud of that house. I have photos of him sitting in the doorway with a big smirk on his face, and we so looked forward to coming for a visit when it was completed. He continued to search for the one woman who would make it a happy home. I believe that he thought he found the woman he wanted to settle down with and before long a child was on the way. He was so proud when his daughter Kristen was born. He’d bundle her up and take her out to my A-Frame and stay for hours. I have many photos of her inside the cabin, looking so happy to be with her daddy. The relationship with her mother had not worked out but Albert continued to be a good father right up until the fateful night.
I believe it was a man who lived in the area of the house who when coming home from work saw smoke billowing out from a window. The rest is history and too sad to recall. I had to go with my father to pick out a casket and much later a headstone. It’s a good thing that Mom was not around to experience the sadness and bad news. She would not be able to stand it. It is a miracle how my father managed to get through the grief as he had lost his son Andy two years prior to this.
To be authentic in this writing I have to say that I had to look at the positive in all of this and Kristen is one of these good outcomes. She grew into a beautiful young woman and a person of substance and kindness. She finished high school and studied at LeMoynes School of Esthetics. Albert, I’m sure if there is a heaven, is very proud and is smiling down on her.
At the time of the funeral when we could not look upon his face one last time because of the smoke damage, we knew he was dressed in the tuxedo he had worn at one of his best friend’s wedding. We placed a favorite photo on top of the grey velvet casket.
Another outcome was a big surprise to several of us in the family. Albert had a son when he was very young and we found out about him. His name is Justin Pittman and he is a shy quiet young man like Albert. My father who was always kind to those in distress decided to sell Albert’s house and put the monies in two accounts in trust for his two offspring. When each child finished high school she/he was given the trust money to continue in a program of choice. Justin studied heavy equipment and today drives big trucks out in Fort MacMurray. I’m sure he is thankful for the gift of money from his birth father. My hope is that some day we get to spend more time together. And furthermore, that Kristen and Justin will get to know each other better.
I believe I was told by someone in Pasadena during my last trip, that one of Albert’s best friends just purchased Albert’s house and lives there. I am happy that the house still gives him some peace after losing one of his best buddies.
I’m sure that any of you who have suffered the loss of a loved one will understand when I say that you never get over the death. This writing is a part of me dealing with losing my baby brother so many years ago. He left us too soon and it’s no good to talk about the what ifs, what happened happened and it was a tragedy and left many people full of sadness for a long time. My father rarely spoke of the fire or the death of Albert at age 26. I think it was too painful for him, after losing my mother at 48 and my brother Andy at 28. It brings tears to my eyes often at this time of year when I go back one more time to remember everything I can recall about my youngest brother, who grew into such a nice young man.