PART FOUR – TEACHER
Fu wanted to be a 7th grader English teacher, and I am telling you, THAT is crazy. When we made our last move, she took a job in one of the area’s more difficult schools. You could argue that this was the only job offered to her, but I would tell you that she accepted the assignment as if it was from God himself, which it may have been. She was good at it.
Now, she never received any special recognition from the administration. She did, however, receive two recognitions, both from students. In 2008 and in 2011 the students chosen by the Principal as the most outstanding of the year chose Frances as the most influential teacher in their lives.
Her students always showed improvement, and every year she would connect on a deep, even spiritual level with just a handful. The first few years after she retired, we would come across former students who would run up and hug her and tell her with breathless enthusiasm what they have been doing with their lives.
After those occasions I could see the deep sense of satisfaction in her face. I was so proud of her and did everything in my power to support her and encourage her. That is what a Mutt is supposed to do for his Fu.
This is not to say that teaching was easy. That road was full of twists and potholes, some large enough to swallow you. On a few occasions a student would threaten her. Once we felt the need to go to the police department and file papers in case this student decided to act on the threat. But those were the exceptions.
A few students did stay in contact, though, through Facebook or email. After her passing some reached out to me; one, a successful writer who made a small donation to the Frances White Encouragement Scholarship Fund we established in Fu’s memory at Blue Mountain College, a school known for producing excellent teachers.
It became really hard when her favorite principal was removed, and the new principal did not provide, she felt, the same level of support. That spring she told me she did not want to sign another contract. I told her that was fine. We no longer needed the income. I said come home and take it easy and let me take care of you.
That lasted about 10 months. Being at home was driving both of us crazy. A long-time friend, now a U. S. Congressman, had offered her a job a few years earlier. Now he hired her, and she became a Congressional Special Assistant for Constituent Services, focusing primarily on the needs of veterans. She loved this work and loved the people she got to associate with. We were able to save most of her salary for a future that we dreamed about, a future that never came.
But the thing she was most crazy about during this period of our life was being a grandmother. We have six amazing grandchildren and at one point three grand puppies. They were the joy of her life. When she became a grandmother, she stopped coloring her hair and let it turn its natural white. I fell in love with her beautiful auburn hair as a teen. As a middle-aged adult, I was in love with her beautiful, soft white hair.
Helping her on evenings get ready for class the next day or providing pizza as a reward for her students on special occasions, I miss. Visiting her in the Congressional office, going to lunch together; these things I miss, also. But touching and smelling her hair, that’s the thing I miss the most as a Mutt without Fu.