This time of year I remember how every time we got a math test back in high school, one person always received a 100 on the test. That damn kid would then have the audacity to say to the teacher, in front of the whole class mind you, that he wished the teacher would make the test harder next time because he wasn't being challenged. If this was your first day in the classroom you would have hated the kid, until you realized everyone else in the class was laughing, mostly because of the look on this kid’s face - an contagious, ear-to-ear, “I am so clever and cute that you can’t help it” grin.
This time of year makes everyone think of specific memories. For me, I think of biscuits and chicken and gravy. I think about corn, butter, and plastic silverware. I think of those little rolls and old school high cafeteria lunch trays, the ones with separate sections for each part of the meal. Most importantly I think about how every time this was on the lunch menu, all of my friends knew that we were in for a show. Come lunch, everyone’s favorite chef was going to walk us all through the steps one should take whenever preparing Chef Grant’s Stuffed Buns. The infomercial always ended with an “’Voila!” And that stupid smile.
I think about Global Studies. I think back to one specific class in the 10th grade when my friend grabbed the string to the blinds, which were all the way down, and yanked the string. Only one side of the blinds went up so that the shade was cockeyed as it was pulled up in haste and Grant yelled out, in the middle of a serious lesson, that there was a sniper in the courtyard that was trying to assassinate him. He kept it up the entire class except he could hardly be understood he was laughing so hard.
One time the teacher got so sick of him talking and making wise comments that he moved him to the other side of the room by the door. By the end of class Grant had slid his desk all the way to the back of the class and was facing the other way smiling at the back wall. He was odd like that.
I remember a kid that moved in what seemed like slow motion at all times. He had such a slow delivery when speaking he earned the nickname “Sloth,” but he had a wit so quick that it put us all to shame.
I remember how Grant would propose to our friend Jen every day in science class, even though I wasn't in the class with them. Freshman year, on Valentine’s Day, he brought a long stemmed red rose to school and waited to give it to Jen the minute she walked through the door. Whether he really “loved” her or just loved trying to embarrass her, we may never know, but everyone was smiling either way.
I remember when we were in junior high and we sat in the front row for every home basketball game. When garbage time came Grant’s cousin Dan would finally get in the game and Grant was his biggest fan. He showed this by counting, aloud for everyone near him to hear, Dan’s “ball-touches.”
When we finally made the big show that was Junior Varsity, there were only a couple of regular size pair of shorts that had some length to them. All the rest were short shorts, the kind that remind you of a diaper. I lucked out and bought a longer pair from one of my teammates. Grant didn't fair quite so well. He compensated by pulling his shorts down far enough to reach his knees. This didn't help him run any faster and it didn't make him stop smiling either.
I remember every day after school in the fall of tenth grade, while I went home because I was on varsity, the JV team would be in the pool room lifting and only one person would be walking around the school with his shirt off. And of course, it had to be the scrawniest kid on the team. The last time I saw Grant alive, he was carrying a 25 pound weight around the hall yelling to every girl within earshot. I remember him saying “Hello ladies,” as he flexed and smiled because he knew he was so amusing. After that, I don’t really want to remember...
I remember everything from December 6, 1998. I remember working on my El Salvador project for Spanish class. I remember that my parents got a Christmas tree. I remember making a pizza and not being able to eat. What I don’t want to remember is the phone ringing and picking it up and what everything that I was told implied.
I don’t want to remember walking into school the next day to a building full of silent teenagers, silent except for the crying. I don’t want to remember seeing friends and teachers losing control of their emotions as we tried to come to grips with heartbreak caused by the loss of someone who had touched all our lives. We tried to understand how someone who had never done anything but make us laugh and smile could make us cry uncontrollably. Some of us, myself included, were having our vulnerability exposed for the first time. I don’t want to remember sitting in math class and staring at the seat where the kid looking for a more difficult test should have been sitting, making us laugh. Grant was never going to sit in class with us again.
And so, as I sit here 5 years later I remember Grant Richard Foster. Someone who makes me thankful for my friends. Someone who never stopped smiling and brought joy to my life along with the lives of so many others. Someone who just wanted to see that gleam, not of approval, but of love. Grant was a special person who managed to provide a lifetime full of laughs in a life that ended before it’s time.
I think about Grant Foster every day. Someone who makes me want to be a better person. Someone who makes me want to live life to its fullest and make everyone I ever meet laugh. Someone that makes me glad to just be alive. Someone who gave me a gift that no one can take away.
A gift that many people give daily. A gift of friendship. A gift of love. The gift you give someone when you want them to know that you will be there always, even when you aren't.
I sit here, with a gleam in my eye and a tear on my check, and think about Grant. I sit here and think, I wish you were here, bro.