Sunday, September 6, 2009

Growing old gracefully

You can only say so much about Smock, Pennsylvania. And, I believe that I have said it. At least most of it. And the stuff I forgot to say is probably better left unsaid.

But the truth is that our little town is dying, just like the old timers that still live there who were part of my childhood. I really wish them well and hope that their tomatoes grow better next year. But the few traces of young people in Smock are those who appear to wish to escape the prying eyes of the DEA or ATF. The thing that must attract these types are that Smock is so remote. But that was the charm of the town in days gone by too.

When people had birthdays, it was pretty common knowledge. I knew the birth dates of my neighbors and would be happy to celebrate their special days, but I was seldom invited. But that didn't stop me from being happy for them.

I am about to turn over a rather important page in my personal history by getting rid of the "5" which was the first digit of my age for the past 10 years. And getting that "6" may not mean much, but to an avid reader of the "Irish Sports Pages" (the obituaries), there are more and more familiar names popping up along with unfamiliar people who are kicking off before they got a chance to exchange their "5". Grow old gracefully? I'm trying, but I'm not doing such a good job.

So in the days and hopefully years that I have left, I will continue to sneak down into Smock and do my "routine" which is to visit the cemetery, see my pal John Hovanic and Marian Senker, stop by Eleanor Vrabec's for the news and something that she just baked, and then head back to the city.

I have to tell you that each time I leave that town, my heart aches just a little more. I know that it could never be the same, but some of it still is. And oh how I treasure that part.

If you have moved away from your home town, I would strongly advise a visit. Not just to see the relatives or friends, but to visit the place that more than likely molded you into the person you are today. And don't shoot through with your foot mashed on the accelerator. Stop, sit down, and take in the history. YOUR history. And let it wash over you like a balm. Because you see, we don't have to constantly live in the past, but a glance in the rear-view mirror isn't so bad once in a while.

If you were from Smock and you are reading this and you have children, please do me a favor. If for any reason, I someday show up in the Irish Sports Pages, please teach them to come back. Or you do it yourself. Say hello to John Hovanic, senior or junior. It doesn't matter. And say hello to Marian and her great husband and her Mom, who still remembers.

And on your way out of town, please do me a favor and stop at the Smock cemetery and dust off the picture of Frankie Blanda wearing that awful brown leisure suit and orange shirt.

Oh, and the last one out, please turn off the lights. We don't work for West Penn Power, dammit.