The older man sat at a table by himself, two fingers of his right hand casually hooked through the handle of a cup of steaming coffee, and he was thoughtfully looking off into somewhere.
His demeanor caught my attention as I laid my stuff down on the table I chose. I’ve been around enough maudlin, lonely, souring old people to know them and promptly back away, but this guy seemed at a glance to be just the opposite. He looked, I don’t know, comfortable in solitude. Maybe even at peace.
I admit I was irritated at myself for letting him or anything else hijack my attention. After all, I’d dropped by Howya Bean to work. To write. Change of scenery, different location, like that. To be alone, unbothered.
To say my mind was occupied is like saying a ravening Kodiak just out of hibernation only wants a snack. I mean, hey all, see this open laptop? See my pen and notepad? Smartphone? These are known as ca-LOOZ which signal Leave Me Alone. Just keep the java coming, and boogie on. Yeah, I know some of you just added, “—Reggae Woman”. I agree that track was catchy. But, see, remembering those lyrics—let’s just stipulate we’re not going there. I digress.
Showing supreme self-mastery, I chastised my errant attention, chased it back into its own yard, and closed the gate. Blogs don’t write themselves, y’know. Where was I . . . ?
Be interesting to know what he was thinking about, though. He’s not scruffy-looking. Doesn’t have that, that aura of “I’m old, cranky, opinionated, have zero patience with anybody, I couldn’t care less what you think of my clothes, and I need to go pee” that seems to be standard equipment with so many old people. He’s . . . He’s cool. Yeah. Collected. Almost as if Central Casting got a call for The Antithesis of Most Whitehairs and sent him.
D’oh! I can’t—-what’s the deal? I’m trying to get something done here, and this guy keeps glomming onto my attention! And the more I try to ignore him like I’m doing fine ignoring everybody else, the more he intrudes! What is WITH that? I’m a blogger, trying to get one posted and published—-what? Oh, great. I must’ve been staring again, and he’s noticed it. Super!
I half-smiled, gave him a miniscule nod, and dropped my eyes back to my own business.
“What are you working on?”
Wait. What? He initiated a conversation. A response is customary. Show some class, ay, as if you’re not self-conscious at being caught. At least I didn’t try a faked shock. I figured someone as put together as this guy had been paying attention to my nosyness.
“Well, I’m supposed to be working on a blog, but I can’t seem to keep my ideas flying in the same formation.” I closed my laptop, sat back, and gave him my full attention.
“Does writing fill a place inside you nothing else does?”
I had to think about that. Of course, the instant answer was yes; but the way he formed his question made me feel I ought to more carefully craft my response.
“I appreciate how you asked that. And, yes, it does.”
He smiled. “Then what you need to write today will be there when you’re ready again. Since I seem to have disrupted your concentration, would you care to join me?” I almost begged off, yet had the sense I needed this break. Loading everything into my seen-better-days blue and faded backpack, I got up, slid my chair in, and moved over to his table.
Extending my hand, I introduced myself. He grasped my hand with the velvet-steel closure of what was once a formidable grip, if the present one was any indicator. “Glad to meet you. I’m Granger.”
As I sat down across from him, I said, “First or last?” He faintly smiled and said, “Yes.” Then, as if he’d come prepared for just an encounter as this one, he cocked his head slightly to starboard and said, “During this holiday season, I’m more keenly aware than ever of how blessed a man I am.”
I’ve always had good luck using my ears. I saw doing so now a definite plus. He continued.
“Just this morning I was impressed by how God has lavished grace on me, and keeps doing it. I’m grateful; but it still baffles me.
I’ve learned a thing or two. “Can you help me understand when you say you’re baffled?”
“I’m not the finest, brightest, or best. Yet I’ve felt God’s hand on my life in ways I’d never have anticipated – and in some cases can’t begin to explain. So I have to ask myself why He’d show a regular, normal guy like me the kind of grace and blessing I’ve known throughout my life thus far.”
I didn’t answer because for a few seconds I couldn’t. What he said struck like an uppercut to my spirit. I knew I hadn’t shown a grateful attitude much of late for what God had been doing in my life. And I knew I should have, for God had been very, very good to me and mine.
I was startled, for he’d been speaking. “I’m sorry, Granger. You were saying?”
“I notice your cup’s empty. It would please me to buy you another coffee.”
His syntax, the measured way he spoke, caused me once again to take a split-second to think through my response.
“I appreciate your asking, but I think the subject of this week’s blog just made itself apparent. If you come here again, perhaps I’ll see you, for I’m here a lot. It would please me to take a raincheck.”
Granger gently smiled, dipping his head in silent eloquence. On the way home, I was pondering this divine appointment, thinking As I get up in years, that’s how I want to be. Suddenly, aging looks more like a privilege than something I’ve always loathed. Huh.
As my not so gently aged Honda SUV nosed into the driveway, I was rethinking Granger’s phrase: “Baffled by Grace” . . .
And you know what? Me, too.
© Copyright D. Dean Boone, November 2019