Alzheimer’s: It Steals Heroes as well as Memories

I’m on auto-pilot too much, tackling one problem after another. The radio is my constant companion. But I realized this week that I don’t listen to my friend as well as I thought. Turns out that Car Talk has been playing in reruns for two years! That’s because one of the hilarious Tappet brothers had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Me? I never noticed a thing.

Between the Pond and the Woods

When you have stress in your life, as most of us do, you’ve got to find some humor in the big mess. I always loved listening to the banter of Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, on Saturdays as I did my errands. They gave wacky (but often correct) advice to the bewildered owners of problem cars.  Both brothers were funny, but the owner of the million dollar laugh was Tom Magliozzi, who passed away last week at the age of 77. Alzheimer’s was the culprit that brought his laughter to a halt and ended a great partnership between two fiercely funny brothers.

It was their laughing and their thick Boston accents that pulled me in. I’m not a big car fanatic, but their chats about the sounds and problems of malfunctioning autos made the show very entertaining. They came off as grease monkeys, but both Magliozzi brothers actually graduated from MIT.  They even delivered the MIT commencement address (together) in 1999.

Tom got involved with radio after a having a near fatal run in with a tractor trailer. He’d spent a couple of years trying to figure out how to create a life that was richer in meaning. Radio gave him an opportunity to combine his knowledge of mechanics and engineering with the power of his big, joyful personality — and he got to work with his brother, too!

It didn’t take long for the show to find fans. In a recent NPR article, the show’s producer, Don Berman, said Tom’s laugh ” was loud, it was constant, it was infectious.” Berman said, “I’d just hear this laughter, and then there’d be more of it, and people would sort of gather around him. He was just kind of a magnet.”

There’s something heroic about people who can make you laugh so much. You never forget them or the joy they bring to you. Unfortunately, it turns out that Tom suffered from the forgetting disease. Alzheimer’s stole his laugh and his knowledge, and left behind a brother who must feel his absence keenly.

If you’ve never heard the Car Talk show and you need a good laugh, listen to this tribute program which captured some of their funnier moments. It is guaranteed to shift your mood to higher plane. Good bye to one of the world’s bright lights! Tom Magliozzi will be sorely missed.

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