90 is the New 60!My Nana Spinelli, A.K.A. Florence Raphael (Petrillo) Spinelli, turned ninety years old on May 4th, and the woman still has it going on! Case in point: She got hit on during a birthday celebration the family threw for her at Prioetti’s last Saturday.
For those of you who thought you might‘ve read that wrong, I‘ll repeat the above statement: MY NINETY-YEAR-OLD GRANDMOTHER GOT HIT ON.
In a restaurant.
During her ninetieth birthday celebration.
After the Birthday Song was sung and the candles on the rum cake were blown out, a handsome, well-dressed gentleman of around seventy or so approached my grandmother, who was seated at the head of our veeerrrry loooong table, introduced himself, inquired as to which birthday she was celebrating, and nearly had a heart attack when my highly amused Uncle Sammy told him. The gentleman recovered enough to extend his good wishes to Ms. Florence, and exclaim how beautiful she was, how youthful, how amazingly well-preserved! Then, to the shock of everyone present, the man leaned in, planted a wet one on my startled grandmother’s mouth, and proceeded to ask her for a date. And then three miniature Dean Martins flew out of the busboy’s ass and soared above our heads while singing “That’s Amore.” Seriously. I am so not lying.
Well, okay, maybe the part about miniature Dean Martins was a bit of an embellishment.
Now, I’m no stranger to witnessing men hit up my nana -- she was a beautiful woman, a platinum-haired Sophia Loren type sans the throaty accent. She favored black low-cut tops and form-fitting pants. Her nails were always long and painted silver, to match her hair. She was never seen without her three-inch heels. Since I was a little girl, and on into adulthood, men would approach her in grocery stores, restaurants, museums, zoos, circuses (lordy, I’ll never forget the time a clown at the Shrine Circus attempted to get lucky -- the story is legendary, one that will be passed down from generation to generation, I'm sure), but as my grandmother advanced in age, health problems forced her to become less flamboyant; she had to trash her beloved stilettos and begin wearing sensible shoes, which I believe was more difficult to relinquish than her driver’s license. She was eighty-two.
Besides the obvious, other things caused my nana to slow down, things like losing most of her brothers and sisters. They were a close-knit family, she being the oldest of ten. As each sibling passed on or was diagnosed with cancer or debilitated by strokes, I saw my nana become less effervescent, drawn, dazed. She didn’t laugh so much, cried easily, became angry or frustrated at the drop of a hat. She despised the cane she was required to use. By the age of eighty-five, my grandmother finally resigned herself to the fact that she was old.
I think the resignation allowed her to move forward. After a few years of constantly hearing her say, “I can't believe how old I am," and “Oh, don't ever get old,“ and “I’m old, old, old!“ we noticed that she began smiling more and complaining less, noticed a lilt in her voice, the familiar and sorely-missed sweetness and graciousness that was always so much a part of her personality. She discovered an even deeper faith in her God, became devoted to her rosaries, began attending church twice a week. She began mingling with the other residents of her retirement community, venturing by herself to the store via Liftline, going to lunch with friends. She applied her makeup every morning, demure pats of blush on her high cheekbones, a bit of pink rose to her lip, some shadow to her still-mesmerizing amber eyes. She attended family gatherings looking marvelous, silver nails flashing as she spoke, funky yet tasteful jewelry tinkling at her wrists, sparkling around her neck. It was as if she’d found herself again.
And then, at the age of ninety, my grandmother was asked out on a date by a handsome stranger twenty years her junior.
You go, girl.