Car Talk Confessions, A Poem

It’s Saturday morning and that means the laughter of a man who died four months ago will soon fill my kitchen.

Tom Magliozzi, host of NPR’s Car Talk with his brother Ray, had a laugh so wonderful that not even death could snuff it out. Well that, and his show is in syndication.

Have you heard Tom’s laugh? Have a listen:

Tom’s laugh has been a Saturday morning fixture on our radio, not because we care a whit about cars, but because just hearing him makes our lives a little brighter.

Tom died of Alzheimer’s complications last November. I wrote the poem below a couple weeks after the news.

Tom reminded me of my dad, who died three years ago. I don’t know why, because Tom was much louder than my soft-spoken dad. Maybe it was the love of cars. My dad loved cars. Maybe it was his offbeat sense of humor. My dad had that, too — at least that’s what people tell me. I didn’t get to hear it much. Or maybe I first heard Car Talk at my dad’s house.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a famous dad. Someone like Tom, who long after his death, you can flip on the radio and it’s like he never left. He fills the room, giving you a big hug of laughter.

Car Talk Confessions

Forget the mashed potatoes.
In my kitchen it’s the radio
that serves up comfort
same as it did as a kid.
The names have changed
some, but the tone,
the one I call cool and calm, my kids
call tediously tormenting
lives on.

Hi, I’m Lakshmi Singh and
is NPR news.
The good, the bad,
all wrapped up in the same
tranquil timbre.

My oven burned out
the day Lakshmi broke the news about Tom.
Tom, the NPR Car Talk guy, she said unrattled,
was dead. Felled at 77. Alzheimer’s.
Tim-ber! Delivered in timbre.
A homonym for Tomonym.
He’d laugh his ass off about that, and
he’d know how to fix my 2003 JennAir Dual Fuel oven.

Was Tom Click or Clack
of Tappet Brothers fame?
I can’t say for sure
but Tom, oh dear God, how
can someone like him
ever rest in peace? Tom
was the laugher of the Clicker Clackers
an unmistakable
firebomb of cackles
who made a riotous radio racket
with his bantering brother
for more Saturdays than I can remember.

Yukking and yakking it up
for people like me who don’t give a hoot about cars
unless theirs won’t get them where they want to go.
Then we holler.

That’s exactly what I did
back in ’88 when, at age 16,
my first set of wheels
was as dead as my oven
and it was all my—
dad’s fault,
depending on whose side you take.

I disabled your car, he said.
You’re grounded.
And he left town,
secure with my sentence.

Cue the banjo intro.

Hello, you’re on Car Talk with Click and Clack.

Hi, I’m Julie from Seattle.
Thanks for taking my call.

H-e-l-l-o Sunless in Seattle!
What’s your question?

Not a question, more a confession I’m hoping
you’ll share with my dad, Tom, now that you’ve both
driven through the Pearly Gates.

I’d like him to know I read the manual,
diagnosed his disablement.

I found my alternator cap on his workbench
not long after he left that day.

I popped it back on
and drove off. Then popped
it back off when I got home.

Tell Dad next time,
he might want to take it with him.

Cue the infectious laugh, Tom.
And please, pass this on to my dad.

-©Julie Deutscher, November 2014


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