I first met Vivian in an exercise class. I was impressed with her energy, her air of confidence, and a quiet presence I thought of as dignity.
I made some friendly overtures to her, chatting before class started and suggesting we go to coffee sometime; but it was clear Vivian was not interested in our getting together. She always left with her friend Alice, a long-time friend.
Vivian left exercise class long before I did. I was surprised when our paths crossed in a book club we had both joined. Vivian had an extraordinary knowledge of modern and classical literature -- which we all appreciated.
Vivian was much more a member of the book club group than she had been in the exercise class. I attributed it to the fact that, without Alice, she was much freer to interact with all of us.
Eventually, Vivian and I became friends -- as close as some of the friends in my past. How was that possible, I asked myself? We didn't grow up together; we weren't in the same class in kindergarten, or high school, or college. We never pledged to be (BFF) best friends forever.
Vivian didn't know my story, my parents, and she didn't dance at my wedding. We weren't professional colleagues. She never met my husband -- nor I hers. She never shared the intimate secrets of my life's various stages.
How, then, could I regard her as a close friend -- but I did. We knew each other's older selves and we shared what it meant to grow old.
But, like many of my friends of my past, Vivian died, and I miss her. She was my friend.