Sibling Rivalry… All You Really Need is Wipers and Brakes

Sad news today. Carl’s obituary was in the Birmingham News today. Carl the owner of Carl’s Car Clinic in Cahaba Heights took care of our cars for 20 years. A friendly, jovial man who was the guru of all things automotive, leaves behind many grateful customers and even more friends. It was so enjoyable listening to him share his views before Facebook or Twitter. Although he was known as the “Car Doctor” on the local radio station, he was known for the wonderful customer service he shared. He knew your kids and helped keep Dads and Moms from really getting too upset when their kids wrecked cars or just failed to check the oil from time to time.

He was smart about so many things. A few years before the economic crisis, he downsized his operation to make a better business. He had to make adjustments to staffing and his siblings failed to understand his motives. Who really knows the miscommunications that transpired but it is enough to say , the whole episode left him saddened. Carl ever the one to share many stories, even personal ones that most people would never have the courage to admit, shared his sadness of losing the close family ties that had sustained him throughout his life and career. It made all of the customers hope for a happy ending. Unfortunately, I think that stubbornness between too many people who shared so much of their lives together never allowed those wounds to mend. I sure hope I am wrong. I liked all the family members and they made me admire the richness of siblings and the complexities of their relationships. He did love his siblings and he adored his children. I heard many stories. He talked with pride of his daughter’s wedding. He shared the story of the Tom-Tom his son bought him and some fishing gizmo that helped locate fish. As late as a month ago, Carl must have had a premonition , he told my husband that he was working hard to get his will and trust estate prepared. He said, “I want to get this right for my kids. I want them to get all this money.” My guess, is he saved every nickel he earned. I admire how he saw a slow down  in his business environment and faced it the best way he could, by still working hard. I am sure his kids are very proud.

Why did I bother to write about an auto mechanic? The simple answer, we need to know about people and the troubles they face, the mistakes they make, the efforts they try to get it right, and the failures that stand to make them better. I write because, Carl was my friend. I admire how he loved the customer service aspect of his business. He had a story for everyone. He had opinions that made you think. He loved his family.

One of the funniest things about cars he ever said was when he was trying to convince a woman who was reluctant to get her car’s brake pads replaced. I stood there waiting my turn when I heard him say, “Lady, the only things you HAVE to have on a car are brakes and windshield wipers. I get more people in here worried about air-conditioning than anything else. But heck, you can push a car to get it to go, but if you don’t have brakes, you can’t stop it. If you can’t see during rain or fog and don’t have brakes, what good does new tires do ya?” Good advice indeed.

There are usually at least three sides to every story but if you are lucky to have siblings, take the time to call them. Listen to them. Love them. Carl would tell you that and then tell you that it is time to replace those windshield wipers and get those brakes checked!

When, I think of Carl’s passing , it serves to remind me that old phrase is completely right, “All that is left when you are gone is the way you lived your life.”

Not many folks get this many online remembrances, the written words of all these folks say it better than I ever could.


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