I greeted him, and was surprised by a well-modulated voice somewhere in the second tenor, maybe baritone range.
As I moved toward the chair he showed me, I glanced around his digs. There was a delightful hodgepodge of things here and there, obviously mementos picked up from travel. It was definitely a man’s room. Yet there was nothing messy or needlessly cluttered about it; it was . . . comfortable. It also had an exotic feel to it – like when you pick up a glove thinking it’s kind of stiff cowhide, but your touch reveals it to be buttery-soft lambskin.
I was so pleasantly rapt in seeing, no, sensing the atmosphere in there I almost missed the music.
It was soft. I had to stretch my ears to hear it. It sounded like a jazz trio you’d expect to hear in an upscale eatery. My mind settled back as I enjoyed the smooth, soft sounds. It—
“Scott Hamilton Trio. Nocturnes and Serenades.“
“I’m sorry; I just noticed it, and I guess I’m a little surprised. From what I’ve heard, I was expecting maybe some–you know what? I don’t know what I was expecting, to be honest.”
He’d been quietly waiting for me. I could tell from his amused look I wasn’t the first one to get lost in the lazy swirl of that great music, the just-enough lighting, and whatever roast of coffee he’d just brewed. And when I say he was waiting, I don’t mean with impatience. It was more like he was, yeah, comfortable being silent while waiting me out. Note to self: you’re not used to men who listen.
“I like the atmosphere. It’s conducive to relaxed chatting, which – I’m assuming – is intentional.”
Granger sat quietly for a few more seconds, a musing expression on his face. “Oh, that’s not just for your benefit, Ms. Witherspoo—“
“Thank you. Glennis. Of course, I want you to be at ease, but this really is the way I keep my office. It helps me concentrate while thinking, reading, and writing.”
I sat listening and sipping my coffee, oddly feeling as though I ought to ask for a menu . . . Great coffee! From the logo on this mug, it seems he enjoys Howya Bean, too. Self-conscious, I glanced up and tipped the mug toward him, smiling with appreciation.
“Great coffee. It’s smooth, robust and fragrant. What is it?” Granger’s eyes fixed on Somewhere Else as he mulled – a thoughtful, inner-penetrating gaze I would learn was a trademark of his.
“I think that might be Beartooth Mountain Roast from up in Montana.” I took another grateful sip, studying him over the lip of the mug. His smile was wispy, almost not there. “I don’t make bad coffee.” You know? Somehow, I believed him.
I thought I was being nonchalant in casually pulling out my black PaperMate Inkjoy retractable gel pen, laying it at a jaunty angle on my pad. Ms. Interviewer of 2003. None of that ugly, garish, Century 21 bling for this event. See, when I’m doing a serious interview, I only use my best pen. The gesture would be lost on him, but I’d know I used my best.
I’d halfway noticed the greenery as I walked in. Sipping again the fragrant, smoky coffee, I focused on the lush areca palm almost brushing the ceiling. There was another type of palm next to the big one, and I noticed it had a couple of shoots growing out of what looked like a broken-off stalk . . . And sort of a green thumb, too. Huh. I wond—
He was waiting for me again. That took some getting used to for me. It’s odd. I’d never met a man so–present? Contained? I was probably right the first time: he was comfortable, okay with being there in the moment, not intruding on my reverie. Most men love attention, I thought. They’re perfectly willing to talk about themselves. Granger seems okay in just waiting for me. I’m thinking there’s a lot more of a story here than I first thought. But I’m gonna have to dig it out myself. Dad gum . . .
When I’d first arranged to go to his office to interview him, he’d made clear he would respond to my questions unless they strayed into being too personal or I asked them wrong. He’d been – was being – true to his word. He had not, however, volunteered anything. I’m having to craft these questions carefully.
I suddenly realized he’d gone quiet again. I bobbed my head guiltily. After a moment, he said, “You mentioned drawing conclusions about me because of what you had heard. Can you help me understand what you’ve heard that would lead you to think that way?”
It wasn’t just silence. I mean, there was the musical subflooring, the soft tocking of a clock somewhere in the room . . . No. It was more than the absence of sound, almost as if his emotions and thoughts were settling on his soul’s foundation. After asking his question, Granger seemed to go still, and his eyes almost glowed with a hazel intensity not there before, highlighting his thinking. It was a complex expression, remote, yet beckoning, that seemed to look behind my words for my meaning.
That would be the first such encounter alerting me I was about to realize one of the things about this uncommon man that drew such fierce loyalty and enduring friendship to himself . . .
Granger sat observing me as I marshaled my thoughts. I didn’t feel uncomfortable and he was not impolite. It was scrutiny, yes–but more. His quiet gaze wasn’t invasive to the point of embarrassment; yet I found myself, perhaps for the first time, not in control of my own interview.
Maybe that’s what was bugging me. I’m no shrinking petunia. I’ve been a professional reporter and journalist for twenty-six years and this ain’t my first shindig.
In an almost-effortless transfer, I found our roles reversed: I the interviewee, Granger shaping the questions and guiding the conversation. It was throwing me off my A-game. My nerves were on edge and fuzzy.
Granger glanced at the electronic pad he had on the little table beside his chair, touched it twice, then settled back.
“By all means, ask your first question.” He had the merest gentle smile quirking one corner of his mouth. His eyes were on mine, and he seemed totally at ease. It helped settle the grounds of my irritated nerves. Here goes, I thought.
“Where did you get started doing what you do?”
Granger did what I’d quickly learn was his habit. He was still for a couple of seconds, considering what I’d asked and forming his reply before saying a word. It was almost as if he were choosing between several possible replies.
“I chose to be an encourager. I’ve a close friend who’s laid it out well, so I’ve borrowed his life purpose, his ‘contract’, if you will. It’s this: To lift, encourage, edify, and challenge those whose lives I touch to personal and spiritual excellence.”
“All people – including you – are more complex than even they sometimes know . . .” As I pondered his interesting verbal entrance, it dawned on me we were listening now to some light classical music. “I want to invite them to let those often-unknown pieces of who and what they are out. To reveal and appreciate the wonderful layers of their personalities and characters, like exploring some just-made Greek baclava, one layer at a time.”
I sat, a little slack-jawed, so quiet my blinking eyelashes swished, letting his words lightly flutter in the easy waves of the soft music while I let their meaning firm up in my mind. Full disclosure: my mouth was watering, too. I’m a sucker for fresh baclava.
“So much discourse, public and private, takes place on such a surface level that we rarely notice, let alone learn to appreciate, one another’s depth. We each bear the unmistakable signature of every life event that has been part of our individual journeys. It’s a signature intensely personalized by scars left, lessons learned, experiences weathered–there’s an infinite number of those things, and much more, that creates the rich soil from which every one of us grows. We all are the sum of our own choices, of our own journeys.” Granger paused, that easy silence sluicing over his words like the diminishing wake-wash of a passing boat.
I slowly nodded that I was with him.
“Okay. Say more.”
He paused long enough to get up, cross the room, and pick up the carafe of coffee. Turning, he raised his eyebrows and I nodded. Refilling my cup, he filled his own cup back up, and as he sat the carafe down by his chair, I could see he was already forming his next thoughts. Oops. A man who thinks on his feet. Warning, Will Robinson…
“I want to encourage the disappointed and discouraged, the rejected, the overlooked, the bypassed; the also-rans, the second-best–I want to offer an audience, to actively listen to those trying to heal from things they can’t or won’t discuss with anyone — and may not have even admitted to themselves.”
I couldn’t help myself. “Wow. That’s ambitious. How do you go about that? With 7 billion people in the world, where do you start? And, above all, why?” For a brief second, something flickered in his eyes as he paused before responding.
“Because we’ve all been there. And no one’s asked how it feels to lose out, to be taken for granted, to have years of steady, solid work credited to someone else – or entirely overlooked. Because only Blue Ribbon First-Placers get the notoriety and interviews, some truly terrific people go completely ignored. We hear onlookers say, “Well, hang in there.” Hanging in there gets real old, real fast. I’ve had to do it too often, and I want to help others see there’s a better alternative. My mission is to come alongside them, to appreciate their investment of time, resources and energy that’s gotten them this far.”
I sat absorbing Granger’s words. There was a dynamic, humming, vibrating passion energizing them; it was almost palpable. I could feel their impact.
“So, aren’t you opening yourself up to be hurt like that? People can be messy when dealing with their past, trying to put into words things that’ve been buried for so long.”
He rewarded me with one of those hazel penetrating looks. “That’s a helpful insight. Sure; hurting people sometimes snap at those trying to help them. But the effort is worth it. It’s a price I’m willing to pay.”
I was thinking right along with him.
“But at what cost to your own spirit? Isn’t there a cumulative effect? When will you know when you’ve had enough of ‘through-helping’ everyone else?” His response caused a slight mental shock.
“I’m not the Dead Sea. Creativity has no limit. As long as I have an outlet, there’ll always be room within my spirit for God to pour His wisdom and grace through . . . “
Granger paused. By now I knew enough to wait.
“Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try. I think Jack Canfield said that. In some cases it may be too late, because as we progress through this life, its various experiences and their results do intrude. That doesn’t matter. If you get the chance, take it!” There was a different timbre in his voice as he said that; I glanced up from where I’d been doodling on my pad and saw a force behind his gaze highlighting the statement. And here I thought steel only came in dull grey.
The more I listened to and observed Granger, the more fascinated I became. He hadn’t moved, hadn’t changed his position, and hadn’t even raised his voice much. Yet something in the room changed. It was as if what had been a general response to my questions about him had quickly shifted to a laser focused, singularly attentive, positive challenge for me.
Though his gaze and scrutiny were more intense, I was not uncomfortable. I sensed no criticism nor censure, but instead a solid wall of esteem. He felt like an older brother, a mentor intent on drawing out of me the absolute best I had to offer.
“. . . relit by an encounter with——” I’d been looking around inside my own thoughts and was startled to hear he’d been speaking again. Granger grinned at me and started over.
“Albert Schweitzer once said there are times in everyone’s life when our inner fire goes out. It’s then relit by an encounter with another human being.” He paused, then continued. “My aim is to be that person who rekindles the flame in the inner spirit of another.”
“There aren’t a lot of us around, and we’re all different. A teacher named John Gatto wrote, ‘Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist.’ The last thing to which I aspire is to be a conformist.”
Granger relaxed then, quietly sipping his coffee. It was clear to me he was in a comfortable place, as if he and I’d been walking along while conversing, and had stepped out into a warm, sunny clearing with a small creek on the other side, lightly chuckling over rocks long since worn smooth by the water’s soft insistence.
I was ready with my pen this time as the coffee mug came back down on final.
“There are a select few who will touch your life in the most meaningful way. After meeting or remeeting them, their souls will leave an imprint in your heart, and from then on you will never again be the same.
“I work to be being one of those people.
“I want to spend every moment of my time here being worth knowing rather than striving to be well-known.”
Granger sat back, observing me trying to absorb all I’d just received. His demeanor subtly changed, creating a welcoming warmth that drew me and my concerns in. I felt——
I felt included. Valued. Cared about. I can’t explain the difference; I just know how I felt, which was that I could tell him anything and it would be safe with him. I could trust him.
I don’t remember much of the wrapping up niceties; the Granger effect had left its influence on me. I was in my trusty little tan Camry, blocks away and in a reflective, pleasant fog when it hit me: I’d left my best pen!
© Copyright D. Dean Boone, August 2019