Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - February 14, 2014

Never too old for love

He lost his heart to 'the lady with the cane'

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

A gal in a short skirt may catch the eye of a young man, but Mike LoDolce, 91, says his heart skipped a beat when he spotted "the lady with the cane."

He was driving home from the pool-supply business on Sunol Boulevard in October 2011 when he noticed a bevy of older women on the sidewalk. Most of them were using walkers, but the one who caught his eye had a cane.

"She looked just like my wife," Mike recalled enthusiastically. "I made a U-turn."

The women were from the Parkview, an assisted-living residence on Valley Avenue.

"I pulled over so they would all walk in front of me," Mike continued. "When I got home, I called my daughter Sharon."

Sharon Lance was aware of Parkview, which she'd thought might someday provide a home for her dad. Her mother Grace had died the previous July, and she knew that since then her dad stayed away from his home all day, spending it at Las Positas Golf Course and meeting up with friends.

"Sharon went to Parkview and talked to (marketing director Aireen Tibon), who said, 'Come and have lunch,'" Mike recalled.

"It was a wonderful lunch," he said, and afterward Aireen brought them upstairs to see the public rooms, where residents were gathered and some were playing cards. "Sharon said, 'Daddy, there's a lady with a cane.'"

Mike stepped right up to make her acquaintance. Marian Mood, now 94, was widowed after 65 years of marriage to Alexander McFarlane Mood, a professor of statistics who ended his career at UC Irvine and died in 2009 at the age of 96. Marian moved to Pleasanton to be closer to one of her two daughters, who lives in Livermore.

"Then," Mike remembered, "my other daughter Carol from Southern California came up, and she said, 'Daddy, you've got to go see her.'"

So with his daughters' blessings, Mike went to Parkview and asked for Marian at the desk.

"He came knocking at my door, and I said, "What do you want to see me for?'" Marian recalled.

They took a walk through the adjacent Centennial Park that first day, and Mike, a salesman with Nabisco for 44 years, sold himself to Marian.

"I began to see her every day," he said, and they quickly discovered a mutual love of watching golf.

She soon dropped her weekly bridge games at the senior center as they established a routine they still find mutually satisfying, seven days a week. They begin with coffee at Tully's for an hour, where they are at a front table every day at 1 p.m.

"We sit there and like to see the children and the dogs," Marian said.

They've gathered a bit of a following, as other habitués notice Mike's solicitous ways. He is always holding Marian's hand, working around her cane as he did with his wife's.

"My wife's therapist would say, 'Don't hold her hand,'" Mike recalled, "and my wife would say, 'Please hold my hand.' So I would say, 'Heck with the therapist.'"

Then they go to Mike's house in Pleasanton where he cooks a platter of asparagus that they dip in sauce and enjoy while watching the Golf Channel.

They also share dinner, sometimes at Mexico Lindo but usually at The Habit Burger Grill on Bernal, where they share a hamburger off the bun. "We pretend the hamburger is a steak," Mike joked.

The two families gathered for a celebration when Marian turned 94 in December and again when Mike turned 91 last week. They also get together for holidays with their families, a combined four children, 10 grandchildren and twice as many great-grandchildren.

Marian fondly reminisces about living in Irvine with her husband.

"We'd go out at 5 o'clock and watch the sun go down on the ocean," she said. She also remembers taking ballet lessons with Betty Ford growing up in Michigan.

Mike recalls meeting his wife while he was in the Navy, then convincing her to move to California from Ohio and marry him. Gregarious by nature, he wanted to work as a bartender but Grace -- as well as her father, a judge -- did not see that as a suitable profession for her husband, so he went into sales.

Looking to the future, Mike tells Marian, "When I can't live alone, we'll get married and live together at Parkview."

"I want to see how you behave," she answered, then explained that while at The Habit recently he kept looking at a table of pretty girls.

"I said, 'Let's go,'" she said with a laugh. "The ladies like him, and he likes the ladies."

He might enjoy looking, but Mike is clearly smitten with Marian.

"I feel like I got a second chance in life," he said. "It's a miracle that we met. I love having her with me."

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