There is a death notice for my old friend Nan in today's paper. She used to live on my regular pedalling route although we had met in the library. When her husband died I somehow took over the "small errands" role. That was almost twenty years ago. It meant I would do things like take a prescription to the chemist or pick up a litre of milk. Sometimes we would just talk if I happened to be passing and she was working in her garden.
Nan liked to talk.
I did not mind listening. She had lived an interesting and varied life. Because of her husband's work she had lived abroad in some interesting places - Libya, Turkey and Ethiopia were her favourites. She had a passion for archaeology.
Nan had trained as a botanist. There is at least one plant named after her - at the age of eighty-two. I found that out from her daughter. Nan's reaction was, "Oh that's not important. It's just something new I happened to find."
Yes, but you need to be able to recognise these things and know what you are looking at. Her eye for detail, for small things that other people often miss, was out of the ordinary.
"Look!' she would tell me and produce something which had excited her.
And Nan read. She read a lot. Her television set was rarely turned on. If there was a documentary that looked interesting she would try it out but then she would go back to reading. She kept telling me there was so much to learn.
At ninety Nan learned how to use a computer and then it was hard to keep her away from the screen and the endless possibilities for finding out more about the things that fascinated her.
She had a fall in the local shopping centre and her family decided it was no longer safe for her to be alone at home. She grumbled to me and probably to her other friends but said nothing to her family.
I am not sure the nursing home staff knew what to make of her. One of them once said to me,
"She's like a kid who is always asking "why" something."
I had to smile at that. Nan had once told me, "I never want to grow up dear. I might have to grow old but it doesn't mean I have to grow up."
I am going to miss my "young" friend.