I think we gave each other some mutual validation. I was a lost-in-the-crowd middle child, she an occupationless--and therefore invisible--widow.
The elderly are marginalized in our culture. We quarantine them in retirement communities and nursing homes. Our discomfort at being reminded of age, decay and our own inevitable demises makes us unwilling to associate with those who have gained wisdom through experience, to our own detriment. We get impatient when we're stuck behind old people in traffic. I don't they drive slow because they're bad drivers. I think they drive slow because they know--on a level that the young cannot--that few things in life warrant hurrying.
I was at the library a few months ago. The local senior center is in the same building. In the restroom, I heard two old women conversing in their stalls. "My friend Arlene just found out she has cancer in three different places. And she is the sweetest person you will ever meet." As though sweetness ought to be an inoculation against mortality. Later I watched all the senior citizens climbing into their van, stooped and straining at the effort of an activity that I take for granted. But instead of pitying them, I realized, If I am lucky, someday that will be me. If I am lucky, someday I will be old.
My friend from childhood is no doubt long since dead, and I can't remember her name.