Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tom Magliozzi And The Downhill Slope

"I know I'm fully entrenched in middle age. I have six pair of reading glasses. And I can't find any of them."

I made this declaration in the middle of a senior staff meeting this morning.

It's true. It's snuck up on me, with the gray hair and the weird skin and the weight gain and the creaky knees and achy joints.

The vision thing is the most frustrating, because my eyes are already ridiculously weak. My contact prescription is a -9.0 I'm so nearsighted that contacts or glasses are absolutely essential to living; I literally could not function without them.

And now, even with the glasses or contacts, I can't read anything without the help of the El Cheapo reading glasses that clutter the various places in my life where Things Get Lost.

There are worse things, I'm sure. This is a nuisance and an annoyance.

But it's also a reminder that there is a finite nature to this life. I am, for the first time, looking daily at the downhill slope; the perspective from which things (and body parts) wear out. Where much maintenance is required.

Tom Magliozzi died this week. Half of the Car Talk duo, his voice was familiar to me. Every Saturday morning, NPR carries his show (in reruns for the past two years) and the jokes and the car advice and the puzzlers and the laughter always echo in my kitchen as the weekend begins. It's a constant rhythm to my life. The common sense doled out by Tom and his brother Ray reminds me of my dad and his wealth of knowledge about cars.

His laugh was contagious.

I've listened to Tom and Ray for years. I know their voices. I'd never seen their faces.

Upon the sad news of Tom's death this week, I explored the web to learn a bit more about his life. And I saw his face.

Terry Gross interviewed Doug Berman, who produced Car Talk. He talked about the infectious nature of Tom's laugh.

"It was almost a force, almost separate from him," Berman says. "It was always lurking, trying to come out. And he would see something funny coming a few sentences away, and he would start to laugh while he was talking, and he'd kind of be laughing and it would almost overtake him like a wave."

Tom Magliozzi died at 77, of complications from Alzheimer's disease. The downhill slope, for him and his family, was undoubtedly a difficult loss of place and time and memories. Maintenance wasn't really an option, I suppose; the disease takes what it pleases and leaves a sort of emptiness.

But not completely. In his interview, Berman said he had seen Tom a week or so before he died, and that they made funny faces at one another and then Tom laughed, the same laugh.

It matters, what we leave behind. They are gifts, memories, treasures.

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