You may know Louise “Nonnie” Bonito as the grandma from a 2015 viral video: Nonnie sits in front of an enormous cake with big blocky candles that spell out “102.” When she tries to blow them out, she accidentally rockets her dentures from her mouth; they go skittering across the table while she laughs. Now 107 years old, Nonnie is living through her second pandemic. Until Connecticut’s stay-at-home order took effect in March, she hosted weekly Sunday dinners for her massive family — she has five children, 11 grandchildren, and 19 great-grandchildren, according to her daughter, Camille Addario. The steady stream of visitors has slowed over the past two months, and Camille suspects that, for Nonnie, this has been the most confusing part of the coronavirus crisis: People can’t come to see her nearly as often, and Nonnie doesn’t always remember why. Still, she never liked to dwell on the negative. Despite a rocky marriage to “the love of her life,” despite his habitual cheating, and despite abuse, “she was not bitter at all,” Camille explains. “Through all her ups and downs — and there were a lot of downs, raising five children on her own — she kept a very positive and very forgiving attitude.”
I take every day as it comes. I don’t hold grudges because if you hold a grudge, you keep thinking and thinking and thinking. Finally you say: “What did I get mad for?” With all that my husband did against me, I still don’t hate him. Everybody used to say, “What a wonderful husband you have. He’s such a good tipper, and he’s so nice.” I said, “You don’t know my husband.”
I was just recently married to him, and one word led to another, and he hit me so hard that I went backward. I said, “This is the first and the last time you’re putting a hand on me.” I grabbed ahold of Sally, and I left the house. I got as far as the corner; all of a sudden, I felt a hand on my back. He wanted me to come back. I said, “You hit me once, you’re never going to hit me again.” But what he did after that was worse than getting a slap in the face.
Her husband forced her into three illegal abortions. Before the last procedure, Bonito remembers talking to him: I said, “No more abortions. That’s it!” No questions; he didn’t even ask me. He said, “Come on, I’m taking you out.” I said, “Where are you taking me?” “Oh, I want to surprise you.” And all the while, he was planning on taking me to a woman who would give me an abortion. I said, “This is wrong.” But he’s my husband; what am I going to do? So I had the abortion. That was the time I was in bed for a week.
Her husband eventually left her and their five children, After he remarried, he’d still show up on her doorstep. He says, “Come on, let’s go on the couch.” I says, “Oh yeah? I’ll tell you where we’ll go. Get the hell out of here.” He didn’t want to hear it. So I took an aluminum pitcher and I hit him on the head. I’ve still got it, that pitcher with the bump in it. A lot of people get away with things they shouldn’t. I just let it go. That’s how I survived. I don’t hold grudges. But maybe sometimes I should, and whoever comes, give ’em a kick in the ass.
*A version of this article appears in the May 25, 2020, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!