The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

May 11, 2013

MICHELE BENDER | Old enough to know better

Michele M. Bender
For The Tribune-Democrat

— Sing along …

“Happy Birthday once more, I just turned sixty-four.”

When I turned 60, galpal Lorraine gasped, “I can’t believe you’re gonna tell your age!”

I sorta can’t believe it either. I come from a long line of liars.

My mom claimed her Social Security benefit three years late because she’d fibbed about her age. When my Great-aunt Bessie died, no one actually knew how old she was.

When my grandmother in Philadelphia died in 1968, the funeral home sent a car and driver to fetch her sister, the aforementioned Aunt Bessie, from New Jersey.

I greeted her in the receiving room.

“Michele, do me a favor.” Bessie handed me a $1 bill. “A nice young man, really good-looking, drove me in from Mount Holly. He should be outside. Give him this tip for me.”

“Sure,” I obliged.

His back was to me as I approached him. “Excuse me,” I began, “did you just drive an elderly woman in from Jersey?”

The man turned. He had to have been 70.

Now I’m 64. Generally, the years have been kind to me: It’s those weekends, particularly in the ’70s, that did all the damage.

I highly recommend “after-market” body parts that are, fortunately, available to those of us nearing our expiration dates. After having every organ X-rayed, scoped or scanned, my defective components were repaired, removed or replaced. Years 61 and 62 required courage and hard work, but were soooo worth it!

 I’m seriously pursuing my Easter resolutions to get out more, do some volunteering, meet more folks and be more active.  

On April 27, I attended the Oldies Spring Break Dance Party at Ace’s, an event held annually to raise funds for WKYE Radio’s 12 Wishes of Christmas. The band that rehearses in my basement, The Johnstown Classic Rockers, provided rockin’ oldies tunes.

Although in my wheelchair, I still stomped, wiggled  and hand-jived to my favorite songs.

Suddenly my friends Judi, Becky and Miriam pushed my chair out on the dance floor. They rocked and rolled while I “chair-danced.” Then some other folks joined us. I had a blast!

Now, I don’t want to brag or anything, but I can still fit into earrings that I wore in high school. Actually, I’ve worked hard enough to wear clothes from 30 years ago.

Who needs a “spring chicken” when you can shake a tail feather with a seasoned old bird?

I’m due for a new driver’s license photo this year. Before, I hated to surrender the expired ones because the new photos made me look haggard, pudgier and wrinkly (You know “wrinkly”… the opposite of irony?)

New attitude! Bring on the red-haired man from Walters Avenue!

“Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up!”

I might be a bad influence, but I’m fun!  

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