(Continued from part three)
I’m not sure any of us knows precisely what the spiritual instinct is. And while most people brush up against it once in a while, others experience it far more. Micah and Dorthea Corwin were afflicted with it from a young age.
“I am ninety two years old,” he said as tears started down his face. “My wife is ninety three, and we’ve been waiting to see a move of God since the year nineteen hundred five.”
This couple had been waiting for some extraordinary event for seventy three years, and my very presence was an extraordinary event… and somehow he sensed it. I could not… would not… crush this man’s desperate and nearly extinguished hopes.
I leaned in toward him, very close. “I was sent here,” I whispered. “I’d rather not everyone know it, but I will talk to you about it as far as I can.”
The man was overwhelmed. Given his age I thought I should do what I could to stabilize him. And so I crossed the aisle and sat in the empty seat immediately next to him and put my hand over his arm.
“I am a man like you,” I said very quietly, “not an angel from heaven. But I was sent here on a special mission, from another time. I will talk to you of these things, but first I’d like you to remember your age and try to calm yourself.”
He nodded and sat quietly for some time. Then he faced me again. “Where are you staying?” he asked.
“Having just arrived, I thought I’d take a hotel room and prepare for my mission.”
“Oh, no,” he said, “You must stay with me and my wife. We have a guest room.”
And so I agreed, transferring with him to the Lawrence Avenue bus and getting off in Albany Park.
As we walked the block and a half from Lawrence to their apartment, I couldn’t help but soak in the scene and recover at least some of my euphoria. I remembered these winters so very well, and the look of night in Chicago before the street lighting upgrades of the 1980s. I was holding Micah’s arm as we walked. He was giving his full attention to the snow-covered sidewalks but I was walking confidently and feeling young.
I had been on precisely these streets in 1978. I was recognizing individual trees… even, I think, a car or two. My nineteen year-old self, as it happened, was living just a block or two away. I thought that I might I look in on him, but quickly decided against anything more than some distant observation. If an old stranger could recognize something about me, I had to believe that my young self could.
My present concern, however, was two fragile old people who deserved my comfort. After that, I had a mission to attend to. But for a few minutes more walking down this street I would soak in the experience. It was a luxury I couldn’t have foreseen.
* * * * *
Micah and Dorthea’s apartment was almost exactly as I would have expected: Old and carefully preserved furniture, lots of biblical-themed art (also very old) and some family photos. What surprised me was the particular smell of old people’s apartments in those days. Part of it was mothballs, to be sure, but I think it was something besides. The apartments of my grandparents had that smell, but I hadn’t experienced it since about this time.
Micah talked to Dorthea in the kitchen, presumably convincing her that I was the answer to their decaying hopes. Soon enough they emerged, with Dorthea sitting next to me on their couch.
“You are actually from the future?”
“I am,” I replied, having decided to tell the the wide-open truth as far as I could. “A few hours ago I was in the year two thousand eighteen, and now I am here.”
“Do you mind if I ask you questions about the future?”
“Not at all. I don’t see how it would hurt anything.”
“Jesus hasn’t come back during your time?”
“No, I’m sorry to say, and no signs of such a thing are on the horizon… though I’m sure someone must think so… someone always has.”
Her question clarified her world view to me, and I think my answer gave her some perspective. She seemed like a sincere and decent woman.
“Tell us why you are here,” Micah requested from the chair where he had sat.
“I’m here with an opportunity to improve my world. The whole scenario would take me some time to explain – and it’s as much science as spirituality proper – but if I can improve your world of 1978, some measure of that improvement will transfer to my world in 2018.
“And so the first part of my mission is to figure out how to do that. I’m not yet sure how long I have, but I suspect it will be a few years. Within that amount of time, I’ll need to figure out how to make 1978 and 1979 better than they were the first time through, then to do the hard work of making those improvements happen.”
They both sat quietly for a moment, then Dorthea said, “That’s a very important mission, and not a terribly easy one, I think.”
I laughed softly. “No, it isn’t. But I did this once before, with what I think were good results, and so I’m hopeful. Actually, I’m kind of excited about it.”
Dorthea got a far-off expression on her face. “You must stay with us,” she added ten seconds later.
Quickly I ran enough scenarios through my mind to reach a conclusion. “I can promise you this much, Dorthea; I will stay here long enough to become clear on my mission’s details…” I wasn’t going to tell them about the note. “And afterward I will remain your friend, and will see the two of you as frequently as possible.”
The nodded their heads.
“That may mean I see you every day, or perhaps once a week… I simply lack sufficient information to say right now.”
“Of course,” she said.
Then she offered me some dinner and I accepted. (By now I was hungry.) And while the two of them prepared the meal, I looked through the books on their shelves.
* * * * *