Brady Grapehouse

Brady Grapehouse is a character from one of my favorite books: Once A Runner. He’s an assistant coach at a university, and he’s such a minor character that he’s barely mentioned. But he stuck with me because I want to be Brady Grapehouse.

Here’s how he’s introduced. It’s a long quote, but it’s worth it:

Brady ministered to them all with the same gruff efficiency. They would come to him, at times when they were physically quite well, tapping on the glass partition of his fishbowl office in the training room, usually in the morning when there was no taping going on and the place was a cool, tiled chapel.

“Uh, Brade,” they would say, a little hangdog, “Brade, you gotta secont?”

“Gotta secont? Gotta secont? Now what else would I have better to do than sit around here jaw-boning with one of you jacklegs all mornin’?”

The door would close and he would take it on. He was an uncle, priest, medical advisor, psychiatrist. They came to him with things they couldn’t discuss with their closest friends. The married ones, cut off from the rough intimacy of the athletic bachelorhood, came in to talk about problems of the hearth: children, sex, fidelity, money.

He took them all, listened to them with the stub of cigar going round and round, still gruff and impatient, but with a look in his eyes that clearly intimated a deep understanding, forgiving and nonjudgmental, a look of someone who could not be shocked, who had his own agonies and wasn’t ashamed.

When he heard enough he cut them off and told them whatever it was he had to offer. […] Or he might simply listen and console, offering only the comfort of one who saw life in all perspectives at once, the pigeon droppings as well as the statue, and who could make others see it too. They almost always left feeling better, not infrequently laughing, glad to have found solace in someone so wise, so knowing, a man who also found humor in the leavings of incontinent wildlife.

[…] This was no screenwriter’s permanent cure, of course, and Brady did not for a moment believe he could work such miracles. He knew the soul could sustain far deeper wounds than he could reach with his ultra-sound machines, his muscle balm, ice-packs, and gruff humanity.

But Brady could, by god, get a man to talk straight to him, even one whose teenage eyes had beheld the infinite sorrow of sudden resignation from the human race; that was the way you talked to him. You weren’t allowed to hide behind your own illusions because Brady did not hide behind his.

Brady meets vulnerability with vulnerability. Brady knows when someone needs a buddy or a coach. Brady accepts that people don’t change that much, but believes coaching is still worth it. And Brady does not have the time or the patience for violent politeness.

People talk straight to him and leave feeling better. What a boss. I’m so jealous of Brady Grapehouse.

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