Her Royal Highness lived and loved the high life. Often at the Fountainebleu with Frank Sinatra and company, Clara, our mother, was always at our father’s side. Vince Esposito was sound consultant to Ole’Blue Eyes and cavorted with the Rat Pack. We seldom heard those stories. But on weekends in the North End, Mother would regale us with memories of her time spent with Dolly, Frank’s mother.
Always lively, it wasn’t until she told me to cancel her hair appointment that we knew her heart was failing. When she said, “I don’t really care how I look anymore, I’m going to die;” I countered with, “But, you can’t go heaven with your roots showing.”
She answered, “You know I never thought of that.”
As I wheeled her into the hair salon, she asked, “Who is going to care if my roots are showing?”
I said, “Well, Dad, for one. I don’t want him to look at you and say, ‘What’s wrong with our daughters, Lois and Rita, for letting your roots show like this?’”
She shot back, “After all those years he traveled with Sinatra, I don’t believe he’s up there.”
I reminded her of the Last Rites in which sins are forgiven. “All of them?” she quizzed.
After reassuring her she sighed, “All right. Color. But no cutting.” That phrase is familiar to Emilio on Richmond Street. He keeps me blond and lets me sing along with Andrea Bocelli in his little hair salon treasure.
Although Mother’s hair incident was a red flag, nonetheless, we bought her three new dresses. She questioned, “Why bother? At 93, I don’t care if live or die.” So I said, “I wish you told me sooner because now I will have to return them.”
“All right, I’ll have a look,” she said nodding in approval at the black and white design. To the red flowered dress, she motioned, “metà e metà.” And as for the orangey Hawaiian shift, she threw her hands up, “Halloween.”
Mother kept all three dresses and wore them that week as she held court for the last time. Her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and extended family came to give hugs and kisses among whispers of “Nanny, we love you.” Then on July 22, 2013 Vince reached for the hand of his childhood sweetheart and wife of 69 years. Undoubtedly they are still swaying among the stars.