She’s 15, the age when girls are usually interested in boys. But she’s not a teenager in that sense. She’s a cat, eager for a warm place to sleep and plenty of yummy cat food, preferably salmon or tuna, the stinkier the better. As she continues into her golden years, her sense of smell has diminished, but she just adjusts to that as she has other obstacles she’s come to. When asked recently what age she is, I had to rely on the vet’s chart to see the answer. We estimated her birthdate when we adopted her, based on the age kittens can be weaned at, about 7-8 weeks of age, but I think she might have been a little younger than is wise to separate kittens from their mother. As hard as it seemed in those first few weeks of caring for such a petite bundle of fur, we made it through, 15 whole years. In that time, I have learned more than I ever imagined I could.
I’m not so old as this geriatric cat yet, but it’s hard for me to keep track of time, as so often happens when you’re busy living.
I remember being 15 myself. It was over 40 years ago, but I can still picture the first assignment returned to me from the substitute teacher who was to become one of my favorite English teachers of all time. Though he wasn’t the only teacher to encourage my writing, he was the first to give his insight in the margins of my homework assignments. The first time, there was a huge A+ and an equally large “Thank you!” in red ink in the margin. The writing assignment had been a challenge to use certain words in a descriptive paragraph, and I was glad to oblige. Words to me seemed capable of molding any image that came to my mind, and here I was given carte blanche to be … well, wordy.
There isn’t much more I can recall about that year. A freshman in high school has plenty to learn and every class was full of challenges.
But Barry Foster’s short time as our stand-in English teacher remains with me, indelibly marked in my bank of memories. That year I began to focus on writing, to interpret everything from smelling a rose to sipping a cup of stagnant coffee. Without his influence, I might not be sharing tales of my lifelong experience of pet parenthood with so many people, many of whom I have never met.
So I was deeply saddened to learn that Mr. Foster’s life ended on Friday, April 19, 2013. His accomplishments were many, his influence beyond what many folks could hope to assert in a lifetime, his life obviously well-lived. I admit I’m at a loss for words. Except I want to write in huge letters, all across the page, “Thank you!” My condolences to his family and friends.