Tag Archives: dementia and memory

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.

Memories and Memorial Day

It’s rare that my sister and I get time alone together. One, or both of us, is usually preoccupied with care of my mom. But over Memorial Day weekend, I drove with my sister to visit family and see a bunch of our cousins. The trip was great ’til a traffic accident stretched our two-hour drive home to SIX hours!!!

Between the Pond and the Woods

Mother Robin’s pride and joy

When we started our return trip, the weather was gorgeous and we were both happy from sharing good times with people we love. But everything changed as the turnpike came to a stand still because a tractor trailer flipped over just ahead of us. We were only five minutes from our exit but there was no way to get off the highway. While rescue crews raced to free the truck driver, we sat wondering when we’d escape from our car.

As we waited, a vicious rainstorm settled over the highway so we couldn’t even get out to stretch. To entertain ourselves, we started playing “Questions.” One question was: What is your favorite memory of “Old Mom?” When dementia first started changing Mom’s personality, we used the term “old Mom” or “real Mom” to describe the person she was before the disease. These days, we seldom use that phrase because “old Mom” seems kind of irrelevant now. It gave me such pleasure to have the time to remember our mother as she was in the past — a dementia-family version of “Memorial Day.”

My sister shared her memories of things Mom did when we were at the beach on summer vacations. Those were interesting times spent far from our small home town. We all got to live a little larger while relaxing away from home.

I enjoyed thinking about those times — which had not made my top ten list of Mom memories. My favorite snapshots from the past focused on how my mother looked. In the sixties, she had a blonde pixie haircut and wore sparkly earrings when she went out dancing with my dad. I remember being on the couch with the babysitter and watching Mom come down the stairs. In high heels and a black mini-dress, she was ready to cha cha the night away with my father. I always thought I had the prettiest mother in town — maybe everyone sees their mom that way.

These memories made me teary, but those people I remember haven’t existed for a long time. My mirror shows crows feet that couldn’t possibly belong to the little girl on that couch. And for Mom — petite, adorable Mom! — just walking is a struggle now. She hasn’t climbed stairs in years. But oh, she was lovely in her day! Maybe we need to turn Memorial Day into our annual family Memory Day. Trading recollections isn’t just for traffic jams. It’s nourishing to cherish happy snippets of our disappearing past.