It’s never too late to discover an affair, pitch a fit, and demand a divorce from your cheating spouse. Even if you’re nearing your 100th birthday.
A few days before Christmas in 2011, an Italian grandfather was rummaging through an old chest of drawers when he came upon a stack of dust-covered letters tucked away. He opened them and discovered to his horror that they were letters his wife had written to her lover.
The Italian grandfather immediately confronted his wife, who confessed and pleaded for his forgiveness.
At the time, the Italian man, whom courts identified only as Antonio C., was 99 years old. His wife, Rosa, was 96. The affair had taken place nearly 60 years earlier, in the 1940s.
The guilt-stricken Rosa begged her husband to forgive if not forget her infidelity. After all, they had forged a long and fruitful life together. They had met and married in the 1930s, when Antonio, a native of Sardinia, was a carabinieri officer in Rosa’s hometown of Naples. The Italian press clucked that it was their Southern blood that caused the acrimonious split, according to the Daily Telegraph’s Rome reporter in 2011.
Married for 77 years, Antonio and Rosa C. had five children, who in turn had a dozen children themselves. They even had one great-grandchild.
But their relationship was not all roses and sunshine. Ten years before the discovery of the smoking-hot missives, Antonio had left Rosa—in another pique?—in Rome and had moved in with one of their sons. He only stayed away for a few weeks, but he was in his late 80s at the time, so perhaps he was just feeling his oats. The smoldering letters were apparently the final straw. (No word on why Rosa still kept letters she had written. Had her lover returned them to her? Had she forgotten?) He filed for divorce in December 2011.
Maybe Antonio and Rosa C. were on to a trend. As it happens, divorce among the Italian elderly is on the upswing.
In 2015, the Italian government overhauled the divorce process, reducing the time to obtain a legal split in uncontested cases from a long three years to a quick six months. Immediately divorce cases surged in the over-65 set.
“Today there are cases that never existed before, people even over 80 who are asking for a divorce so they can start a new life,” Gian Ettore Gassani, the president and founder of the Italian Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, told daily Il Messaggero in 2015. The Italian paper cited a 90-year-old man who wanted a divorce so he could marry a woman 30 years his junior. Notwithstanding, it is mostly Italian women over the age of 65 seeking a split.
Antonio and Rosa’s divorce proceedings made them the oldest pair seeking a split. Prior to their breakup, the record had been held by a British couple.
Bertie and Jessie Wood got divorced in 2009 after 36 years of marriage. They were both 98 at the time. It had been a second marriage for both of them. After their divorce was finalized, Bertie died just one year later, shortly before his 99th birthday.
In happier old-romance news, George Kirby and Doreen Luckie set a Guiness Book World Record as the world’s oldest newlyweds when they got married in 2015. The duo broke a record that had stood for 13 years.
The couple said their vows on Kirby’s 103 birthday on June 23. Luckie (perfect name!) was 91 at the time. They had been dating for a remarkable 27 years, having met at an organization that helps older people find friends. Both had been previously married. They moved in together two years after meeting. Kirby proposed to Luckie on Valentine’s Day 2015, with the approval of their seven (between them) children.
“It was about time, really,” Kirby, who’d been a physical education instructor for the RAF, told the Daily Mirror shortly after the wedding. “Doreen keeps me young and I can definitely say we’re going to spend the rest of our lives together.”
Never too late for happiness, it seems.
E.L. Hamilton has written about pop culture for a variety of magazines and newspapers, including Rolling Stone, Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, the New York Post and the New York Daily News. She lives in central New Jersey, just west of New York City.