The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Michele Bender

May 17, 2014

Living life out loud

— People have been listening to me whine about my health care premiums for years. Whine doesn’t touch it. Because I wasn’t old enough for Medicare, I paid an obscene amount for monthly coverage.

“If I make it to Medicare,” I declared, “I’m going to throw a party people will not forget! It’ll be something no one’s ever done!”

What better party venue than the Silver Drive-In, one of my favorite places on earth, where the owners were coincidently celebrating the purchase of some cutting-edge film equipment to update their business?

Well, I made it to 65. At 3 p.m. May 10, we workers started, and by 4 we had transformed the modest snack bar into Cinderella’s ballroom. Festive decorations covered walls and tables; the popcorn aroma was intoxicating, and the new decor – paintings of classic movie heroes and treasured moments – trans­ported us to a surreal world.

My friends the Johnstown Classic Rockers dazzled us. Steve on bass, Ken on drums, Norman on keyboard, Frank on guitar and vocals; Ron and Hokey sang all my favorite songs. My precious galpal Denise, who is recovering from some serious health issues, gathered her strength and sang “Desperado,” just for me.

Drive-in owner Rick Rosko attended to every detail. His lovely wife, Karen, and their staff, Brittany, Lindsey and Dave, kept things flowing smoothly. His son, Joe, patiently explained the impact of the new equipment and the importance of remaining competitive.

And God bless my party guests. Twins Ronny and Donny, both computer whizzes, complimented the Roskos on their progress. Friends I hadn’t seen for years amazed me by dropping by. Joyce, my former insurance agent, brought her adorable child. Pat, from my college days, and her delightful mom stopped in on their way to see “Hair.” My doctor showed up with a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses.

A distinguished man somewhat older than me (Yeah, there are people older than me) arrived with a huge bag of contributions for the food bank. He turned out to be one of my dad’s cronies. They worked together in the ’50s and ’60s.

People came and went all afternoon. I’ll never be able to recall all the names. I tried to get to speak to every guest, and if I missed you, please accept my genuine apology.

Ideal Market’s sheet cakes won rave reviews.

Two ladies decked out in green vividly recalled the live “peeps” from Grants.

My friend Valerie dropped by after work, and Judi, my Communion lady, brought a lovely card and a generous bag of food bank supplies.

Spiderman flew in at 8. He was soaked. We wrang out his cape a dozen times, but it remained too heavy for flight. Actually, the tights shrank embarrassingly.

Johnstown and our floods! The food bank was flooded with stock; the Silver was flooded with music, laughter and friend­ship. My email and snail mail were flooded with caring wishes.

When the sun came out, it looked like love to me.

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and a member of  The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee.

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Michele Bender
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What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

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