The thank-you card I'll never send

The thank-you card I'll never send

It was 1998 and my grade 8 math teach asked me to stay after class so he could hand me a blank thank-you card and envelope. He said “Send this back to me once you’ve made your mark on the world. I want to see how you do it.”*

I still have it and often think about sending it, but I don’t.

When I look at the card I think about Mr. Kennedy of Walnut Grove Secondary school, home of “the gators” who with unwavering certainty believed in 13-year-old me. He believed in me so much that I did my very best in math. I didn’t really like math but I learned to thrive in it. I went home everyday, did my homework, then did it again to make it look nicer, I’d add a title page, because why not, I’d even color code my answers for ease of marking. I was top of my class just because I liked the look on his face when he couldn’t find anything to mark wrong when I handed something in. If I did get something incorrect he’d take the time to help me see why.

While he taught me to strive, he also taught me to strive where it actually mattered. He taught me about MC Escher and how math is everywhere, even in art and despite that suggested I stop coloring my math homework and start applying my artistic interests where they could matter more. He taught me that all snowflakes have to have points in multiples of three because of the composition of water and during the winter months we would walk the hallways of the school looking for the paper snowflakes that could actually “work” in real life. I savored that time. I was a math sponge and will always remember that the line between the top and bottom of a fraction is called the vinculum. Who knew? I did. And I always will.

So why then, why not thank such a pivotal person? A person who helped me see possibility in a subject I didn’t even like, possibility that spilled in to everything else I did.

I will thank him, but never with that thank-you. That thank you card to me represents adding an exclamation mark to that final contribution I make in my lifetime and frankly I don’t want to ever add it. I’d like to think that I could always be making my mark. What if I sent that card and then stopped doing things? What if I sent that card and then had to take it back to add a new mark to it?

After something really big happens in my life I think about about that card. “Is now the time to send it?”

No. it’s not time yet.

And it never will be.   

*The artwork at the top of this post is on my thank-you card. M.C. Escher's "Reptiles"     

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