November 21, 2019

Amplify: What my 97-year-old grandmother and her 99-year-old boyfriend taught me about love

Laura Stone

Queen's Park Reporter
Laura Stone's grandmother, Mildred, pictured with her boyfriend, Bob.
This is the weekly Amplify newsletter. If you’re reading this on the web or someone forwarded this e-mail newsletter to you, you can sign up for Amplify and all Globe newsletters here.

My grandmother is proof you’re never too old for love.

This week, my grandmother’s boyfriend, Bob, turned 99. Yes, you read that right: 99. Frail and slender, he walks slowly and with a cane, but his mind is sharp. He and my Bubby – the Jewish name for grandmother – have been together for four years, after some chance meetings in their retirement-home led to dinner dates and, eventually, a month-long Mediterranean cruise (at Bob’s expense, she likes to point out). The other day, while visiting them for lunch at their home in Thornhill, north of Toronto, I decided to interview them about their relationship.

Mostly, I marvel at the fact that, at 97 and 99, respectively, Bubby (née Mildred) and Bob are both mentally alert and, in her case, great physical shape (I once found her in the home’s exercise room, clutching two-pound weights into a bicep curl). By virtue of good genes, good habits and good luck, they have found each other at the end of life. Their international cruise days are over, and the dinner dates outside of the home have dried up. But they still spend most evenings together, talking about books, listening to classical music and watching baseball.

“We never seem to be at a loss of things to say things to each other,” my grandmother says.

Story continues below advertisement
“Well mostly Mildred’s never at a loss. I am,” Bob replies.

I’m Laura Stone, a Queen’s Park reporter at The Globe and Mail. I moved to Toronto a little more than a year ago from Ottawa, part of my own love story to be closer to my boyfriend. I’ve always been tight with my grandmother, my father’s mother, who shares my sentimentality and affinity for leopard print. Over the years, she has taught me much about love and aging, and the way human beings need each other, and keep going after loss.

I never thought that, at 35, I’d be gossiping about boys with my 97-year-old grandmother. But what she has taught me is that there is not one “romantic” stage to life; it’s a lot more fluid than you think. Sure, most people marry, or stay in relationships for many years. But relationships can end at any time, and at the end of the day, you’re all you got. Being in a relationship is about partnership, but it’s also about being true to yourself. You can’t be with someone without recognizing that you are your own person. And that’s what makes relationships work – in your 30s, or your 90s.

Both Bubby and Bob were married for more than 65 years. Both lost their spouses. Both thought that they were too old for love again (my Zaida – Jewish grandfather – died in 2008 at the age of 94).

“I think that we’re unusual in the fact that we’re both …”

“In the fact that we’re both here,” Bob interjects.

“That we’re both here, for one thing,” Bubby says, “and that we’re both young in our outlook on life.”

They’re opposites, as many couples are: Bubby is fashionable, outgoing, talkative; Bob is quieter, stubborn and particular, with a dry sense of humour.

They are unique on their own, and together, they work.

I ask Bob what made him notice my Bubby, and decide to ask her out on a date.

“I thought she was pretty good. A cool cat. Compared to everybody else here, your Bubby – she’s really something,” he says.

“He said he cased the place,” Bubby says.

My grandmother, who turns 98 in January, says old age has made her more aware of herself. She’s learned to appreciate things she never thought of before. "Even looking at a tree, I see it in a different way,” she says.

Bob is youthful in his thinking, she says, even provocative.

“He doesn’t mind speaking out … whereas I sort of care what people think about me, and Bob couldn’t care less. He’s more like the Popeye type, I am what I am.”

That doesn’t mean he can’t learn a thing or two about himself.

“You never stop learning, I mean that, about the other person, about yourself,” he says.

“And sometimes they make you see yourself, that you don’t recognize.”

Two years ago, Bob had a serious hip operation. He doesn’t go out as much. My Bubby visits him when she can, and when he’s up for it. He’s slowed down.

On Saturday, we’re gathering for his 99th birthday, with family from both sides. We’re happy for them – as a couple, and as individuals – for being challenged, for being interesting, for being seen.

My Bubby talks frequently of looking after herself physically, of taking pride in what she wears and how she looks.

“In spite of that, I’m looking for a younger woman,” Bob chimes in.

“Is that a joke?”

They laugh.

For his own good, he says, “it better be a joke.”

Want to see more on the joys of love in the later years? Check out these gorgeous portraits of older couples posing for engagement-style photos.

Inspired by something in this newsletter? If so, we hope you’ll amplify it by passing it on. And if there’s something we should know, or feedback you’d like to share, send us an e-mail at

ICYMI: From the archives
Amplify: Why I’m seeking out lesser-known stories of wartime
Amplify: Why I’m seeking out lesser-known stories of wartime

Kate Hopwood

Full Story
Amplify: I took my husband’s last name because I wanted to, and that’s true feminism
Amplify: I took my husband’s last name because I wanted to, and that’s true feminism

Sarah Bugden

Full Story
Amplify: It’s time for women to take back Halloween
Amplify: It’s time for women to take back Halloween

Madeleine White

Full Story
About this newsletter
The weekly Amplify newsletter inspires and challenges readers by highlighting the voices and insights of women at The Globe and across Canada.

To unsubscribe, use the link at the bottom of every email communication. Or log in to manage your Communication Settings.

Can't log in yet? Registration is free and allows you to read more for free. Tips to stay logged in.

For feedback about this newsletter, email Sarah Bugden.