Tonawanda News

November 15, 2013

ADAMCZYK: The joy of life, and a few too many sweaters

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Funny, these people do not behave as though they’re on their last lap.

There is a lot unsaid about growing older. The advantages, for example, the way no one expects you to help them move, the way you can choose friends instead of relying on batch processing in classrooms or work assignments, the way loyalty (to people, products, habits or institutions) is expressed or altered. Even if you do not admit it, you acknowledge the clock is ticking, and every hour has impact. 

The opportunity for foolish behavior is tempered by wealth, wisdom and health, but it’s still there.

One hundred or so “Golden Nuggets” of St. Amelia’s Church in the Town of Tonawanda had me over, on a cold afternoon this week, to present a short lecture on local history. And while they seemed to enjoy the show (with pictures, and one patron later told me she had never noticed the assembled group so quiet; it was either attentive or asleep, but they laughed in the right places, so evidently I was a hit) it was I who floated out happiest to be there.

I’m pleased to point out I’m a senior citizen or golden ager or layabout wastrel or whatever the politically correct term is these days (I just hit age 63), and my audience likely was 10 or more years older, on average. After spending time with them I cannot wait to grow older.

Criticism of Catholic ways is in vogue these days, but St. Amelia’s, a massive church-school-landmark-linchpin in a community noted for its tract homes (everything you love or hate about suburban architecture in a community so typical of it, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2011 national convention in Buffalo chartered a bus to take its esteemed delegates here to see the little-changed glory of American housing, preserved, circa 1950) seems to be a smoothly running machine of service. My talk was interrupted twice by school bells, offices for parish services abound and the meeting hall, with a Bingo scoreboard on the wall, is large, warm and complete with kitchen.

The decorative stuff on the walls of the hall is religious, patriotic and homemade by the children of the elementary school. I got the idea this room is used a lot, by various segments of parishioners.

Nuggets from the Golden Nuggets suggest vitality those television advertisements for products fighting old-age infirmity merely hint at. Plans are afoot for a Christmas party, a communal excursion to a downtown play and a bus trip to a casino (I never learned which one). A speaker preceding me, a member of this troupe, told a ribald joke I suspect the church hierarchy would disdain. She was funny, too.

The audience lived much of the history I attempted to explain (a narration of historic photographs, actually) but seemed rapt by it. They knew about Sheridan Drive’s place in the history of local drag racing, sighed mournfully at the photos of Pat’s Drive-In and appreciated, as I do, the collection of photos of Tonawanda car wrecks, high-fendered automobiles that look like Laurel and Hardy should be driving them.

I love an audience that does not need to have Crystal Beach explained to them.

I’m glad they liked me, but more to the point, I’m eager to be more like them. They moved slowly, wore a few too many sweaters for my taste and if they are all Catholic parish members they and I can have a few stimulating arguments, but the self-directed nature of their involvement in life is what impressed me. 

What they enjoy does not require outside involvement. Hollywood, television, politicians take a back seat to their own advice. It’s easy to observe they’ve earned this right through seniority, but they’ve honed their own counsel to the point they no longer require the guidance of anyone or anything else.

Did I mention they seem to get along beautifully? The United States House of Representatives should look at this organization of somewhat divergent, somewhat unified people, and weep at their own incompetence.

On the way out I saw no younger people picking up their parents or grandparents. Yeah, they all got there, and home or wherever, on their own, and not every demographic group in the prairie-like Town of Tonawanda can say that.

You notice little things like this when strangers, now friends, invite you over. I’m glad they did. My presentation was designed to be educational and vaguely humorous, but I learned a lot more from my audience than I suspect it did from me.

Growing older can be a roller coaster. Some people can make the ride as exhilarating as a roller coaster. I found a few.

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at