— Woody Allen
American Actor & Director
(b. Dec. 1, 1935)
What are the odds? Beloved Alberts are falling all around like flies in winter.
For those who remember, two months ago I eulogized the loss of my own distant kin — Albert Norton. To this day, I still don’t know whether Albert was a cousin gone missing, an uncle gone bad or a long-lost twin brother gone crazy who Mom and Dad never told me about.
That’s because David Fenton never got back to me.
Darn that, David.
Back in mid-June, David sent me an email here at the office computer. Reportedly a retired consultant and investment advisor, he broke the bad news. Seems my distant kin — Albert Norton — had perished. I don’t know if Albert fell out of a tree, caught the wrong end of a bus or chased a tornado that didn’t want to be chased, but however it happened Albert got smoked.
Of course, it could have come naturally. David didn’t say. He just described Albert as “... your late relation.”
Further, David advised in the e-gram that he had provided investment and consultant services to my ... whatever Albert was ... next of kin. Because of their close relationship, David realized there were hidden treasures to be spread among the surviving Norton brethren.
He listed me among the lucky and explained all I had to do was to respond to his email with some personal information; the info I sent back to David would then be used to assure Albert’s estate ... inevitable riches, I assume ... would find its way into my welcoming arms.
“Once I receive your information and endorse same appropriately, I shall provide you with all the privileged information/legal documents relating to the deceased and also will give you guidelines on how to realize this goal without the breach of the law,” David’s message explained.
As I explained in this column in the June 22 edition of our newspaper, David did hold me to a promise ... which, in his world, is probably as sacred as a pinky swear. He “respectfully requested” that I treat his information as “privileged” and that I “respect the integrity” of its intent.
No worries, Dave. I said it then and I’m still saying it now.
That’s because this Dave is the Samaritan I’ve only dreamed of becoming. Even sainthood could not do this good fellow justice.
You see, he hasn’t concerned himself only with me. David has been contacting others ... people just like me ... who have lost loved ones of their own. David must have been helping their distant kin as a consultant and investment advisor as well. And now ... just like with me ... he’s reaching out to them to report the loss of their beloved.
But here’s the kicker.
I know you’re not gonna want to believe it, but they were all named Albert, too! Go figure!
Hey, I can’t make up this kind of stuff. But don’t believe me. Take a look at what a couple others have reported.
Just five days after writing that column, which was titled “Mourning the loss of our dear ‘Albert,’” the Cleveland Daily Banner’s news account received an email from a sad fellow named Salvatore Caputo who was also mourning the loss of a loved one. And yes, the kinfolk’s name was ... Albert.
According to his email address, Sal serves as assistant managing editor of the “Jewish News,” a widely read publication apparently located in Phoeniz, AZ. Googling Sal by name and occupation, I was to learn he is an award-winning journalist. Therefore, he can be trusted.
In Sal’s heartfelt message, which was forwarded to me, he wrote, “Dear Mr. Norton ... Just got a note from David Fenton that my beloved relative Albert has died, too. Must be a disease peculiar to people named Albert. Call the CDC.”
Poor Sal. I could feel the heartbreak in his words. I also took careful note of his use of the word “peculiar.” The guy was in obvious pain.
I don’t know which hurts most — the reality of loss or the frustration of not knowing how it happened. Was Sal’s Albert also hit by a bus? Was he breaking a bronc, slipped off the saddle and found himself the one broken? Did someone drop a house on him as he walked the town’s greenway?
All good questions. But no good answers.
Thank you, Sal, for sharing. I know it was hard.
But it doesn’t stop with Sal. Unbridled pain knows no end.
Just a few days ago our newspaper received another related email; and yes, it involved the unfortunate demise of another Albert.
Her name is Liane Greeff. Apparently, she is an accomplished photographer and her greetings came to us from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Liane, too, is seemingly grief-stricken.
“Hi Rick ... Thanks for your article,” her brief message reads. “Funnily enough, here in Cape Town, sunny South Africa, I also lost dear Uncle Albert.”
I’m sure Liane used the word “funnily” only in the sense of “ironic,” “inexplicable” ... and perhaps even “extraordinary.”
Like Sal, I’m sure she too is feeling the emptiness of sudden loss. Yet, as with me here in the shadows of the Great Smoky Mountains, she probably glows in sunny South Africa knowing there are people in this world like David Fenton who are forever on the ready for a time and a chance to be of service to others — especially the broken hearted.
To any, and to all, who may have lost an Albert of your own, please accept these endearing words of empathy, “Allow thy despair to flow freely yet briefly; through loss comes gain, and from gain will grow a virtue of unlimited dimension.”
The genius behind that thought, you ask?
Heck, I don’t know. Ask David Fenton. He’s got the scoop on everybody.
In the borrowed, yet paraphrased words of a famous playwright, “Fare thee well, poor Albert(s). We knew thee well ... sort of.”