The thing that first struck me about Albert Trull was the reason he joined my partner’s college language course. James came home one night and told me an older student wanted to learn Spanish for the most unique of reasons. Albert wanted to learn Spanish so when he passed away he could communicate in the native language of his mother who was born in Cuba. Albert’s mother was Pura (Carrilles) that when translated means ‘pure sounds of the bell’.
One just does not forget a story like that.
Because Albert was unique in all the ways that makes someone truly special he soon became a friend who was invited for lunches at our home, along with political nights of convention watching or ballot counting. There were long chats on our lawn, one truly grand afternoon of bowling, and wonderful meals at restaurants. With the inclusion of other friends of his who lived at the Kennedy Manor James and I found ourselves laughing with a whole new group in Madison.
Albert was a most diversified conversationalist who could hold forth on the environment and the need for a green economy which was his favorite topic, or the reasons the nation needed universal health care. He had a PhD in Urban Planning and worked 37 years at his architectural practice in Tallahassee, Florida.
Albert was simply an amazing man given his scope of interests, and his relaxed southern style of living life. I never saw him mad at the world, but only at times frustrated with his own lack of abilities.
A couple of years after meeting Albert things started to change as the disease that would become the last chapter of his life started to manifest itself more clearly.
One day Albert asked James for help in setting up easier ways to do some simple everyday tasks. That morphed into arranging on-line payments for bills. In time James and I were seeking ways to make sure he was safe where he lived, and when that was no longer an option finding suitable housing for someone suffering with Alzheimer’s.
Along the way we learned enough about the process of how to advocate for someone with Alzheimer’s that we considered writing a book. The court awarded guardianship of Albert to James, and local Alzheimer’s groups suggested we might think about helping by advising others facing the same issues.
We had moments of drama when we tangled with those who we knew did not provide service for Albert as promised. But then we found angels who we praised as they understood that respect is something everyone deserves at all stages of life.
Never did we take our eyes off the goal, and that was following through on the promise we made to Albert at our kitchen table that we would look out for him right through the end. We did such a good job that he even referred to James and myself as “Albert’s Mafia”, and I must say at times a couple staff members at a certain facility did seem a bit more attentive to Albert’s needs when he used the term.
Today at 5:00 P.M. Albert passed away after having a rather typical day at the Badger Prairie Health Care Center, a truly exceptional and caring place with amazing staff.. There was no pain, and it was very quick, and as strange as it may sound given all that has happened, rather unexpected. It looked as if he just fell into a calm sleep.
There was something sad, and yet comforting in the final image that I had of Albert.
James and I spent some time with Albert alone in his room before the funeral home arrived. After he was placed on a stretcher under a blue quilt that resembled a homemade creation that grandma might have made he was wheeled out the side door behind the building.
I followed a few steps to the door that was held open by a staff member. The night had fallen heavy and the funeral home worker pushed Albert into the darkness. I could only make out the sidewalk for a short distance in the dark, and did not see the hearse. But then I looked up and the hazy full moon shined back.
The thought that came to my mind was that somewhere a son is chatting with his Mom in pretty good Spanish tonight.
The body that had become a prison for Albert had released the soul.
I stepped back from the door, and it shut. I turned to James and we hugged.
We had kept our promise made to a very special friend.