Return Engagements (Book Two) PART 11

(Continued from part ten)

The next morning, February 11th, I woke to the percolator again. I took a quick shower and sat down at the kitchen table, where Dorthea and Micah were waiting. They seemed some mix of satisfied and worried. Sensing that, I told them the story of my entrance to 1963, culminating in my friend letting herself die.

After describing her death, I added what I had told Michael Burroughs just before his death: That the calmness with which she approached her imminent passing… as if it were no more to her than taking a nap… that it affected me then and was affecting me still.

They sat silently for a minute or so, holding hands.

Would you like a suggestion?” I asked.

They indicated that they would.

You said that you have children and grandchildren. Call them and tell them the facts as best they can handle them… definitely including that you’ll be expiring tomorrow night… and ask them to spend tomorrow with you. Today, the three of us can head downtown for a pleasant day. That will help me set myself up for this mission”

To that they quickly agreed. Then, as they prepared to call their children, I excused myself to run to the news stand and a fruit market, giving them some private time. Their children were both in their sixties, but they were still their kids, and this was the big goodbye.

* * * * *

Our cab arrived at the Palmer House just before noon. I took a small suite; the first three days paid in advance. Then we walked down Wabash to Marshall Field’s. Micah and Dorthea went to the basement and picked out their favorite candies (it was something they used to do when they were young) and I bought a three full sets of clothes, plus extra underwear and socks.

I left my bags at the Men’s department and took the Corwins to the Walnut Room, a fancy restaurant on Field’s top floor. We ate a multi-course meal with dessert. It was something Dorthea had long wanted to do, but never had a good opportunity.

Is there anything else you’d like to do, but haven’t?” I asked them.

I’d like to see the great paintings at the Art Institute again,” Dorthea said.

And so we walked back on Wabash, dropped my clothes at the hotel, and continued around the corner to the Art Institute. We spent two hours examining the truly wonderful art, ending at the sculpture garden in the basement. Then, with Micah and Dorthea growing weary, I grabbed a cab and we went home via Lake Shore Drive, one of the world’s more pleasant drives.

Quietly, so as not to be heard by the driver, I gave them a travelogue featuring events from my life as we drove west on Lawrence Avenue to their apartment.

Back inside, I more or less tucked them into bed and sat in their front room, sipping tea and watching a light snow fall on Lawndale Avenue… in 1978… which was still an amazement to me.

* * * * *

Both the Corwins’ children, with some reservations, spent their last day with their parents. Several grand- and great-grandchildren stopped in through the day.

I got up early and stayed until the first group showed up, then excused myself and took a cab down to the Palmer House. I checked, and learned that Mr. Reynolds was still checked in. And so I left his clothes in front of his door and slid a think you note, along with a hundred-dollar bill, beneath his door. Then I took a long nap.

In the evening I headed back by train and found the small crowd dispersing. The son and daughter were both there. They weren’t sure their parents would really die – there had been predictions and failures all their lives – but their passing would be soon in any event, and the daughter said she’d stay in the guest room if I didn’t mind. And so I gathered up my remaining items and prepared to head back downtown.

I asked for a few minutes with Micah and Dorthea before leaving, which everyone graciously granted. We retreated to their bedroom and talked.

I’m very sorry I won’t see you again,” I said with tears starting down my face.

They both hugged me for a long time, thanking me “for everything you’ve done,” which was restoring meaning to their lives. I said I was pleased to have helped, but I couldn’t help thinking of the real Micah and Dorthea, who died in the real 1978 with their hopes never realized.

I stopped myself from thinking of all the millions like them, who have been propelled by the spiritual instinct and were soon pulled into a life-long series of disappointments. That was simply too much to bite off.

As I was saying my good byes amongst the others, Walter from Hosanna Tabernacle asked if there was anything he could do to help. I told him I couldn’t think of anything right off, but that I’d most definitely contact him if there was. He also asked me back to Hosanna Tabernacle. I said I would plan on it, but I wasn’t sure when.

You know when we meet,” he said. “Just drop in.”

I said I would.

I left Walter with my mind already heading to the door, but as I walked I noticed a young man through the large front windows. It was me… the 19 year-old me. And he was looking straight at me.

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