The Old Man in My Dreams
(I dreamed this one night, but it took me months to write it down. I know what it means to me. Do you?)
In my dreams one night, I met an old man who came to me much like Jacob Marley came to Ebenezer Scrooge.* His appearance was sad though, not scary. He told me I was to remember him. Years would pass he said, before I would need to remember what he said to me. So, I went about my life. I grew and studied, played and learned, watched and created and lived. Mostly happy, I lived. Marriage came and went. I was blessed with children; then grandchildren. Still, once in a while I’d think of the old man from my dreams.
As my carefree younger days evolved into a settled middle age I began to think of him often. Why, I wondered? It wouldn’t be long before I realized the reason. My country, my beloved country was changing. The America I had so loved and grew up in was becoming a place I had trouble recognizing. I was worried. I was beginning to be afraid because my grandchildren, for whom I fretted over, were starting to grow up. They were my legacy and I loved them with a fierce devotion no words can adequately describe. My country was becoming a place of bitter peoples and terrifying divides. Morality was becoming lost and the very foundations of truth, liberty and faith; the very values upon which America had been built were shrinking. No, they were dying. People, even me, were talking of war; revolution and making comparisons to horrors in history that were fading from people’s minds. Is this what the old man wanted me to know? While he had warned of no specifics, I knew instinctively that he was warning me to watch and be wary of what was to come. But, what was that? Was it the decline of the America I so loved? Was there more? As my middle age crept in, freedoms were already lost to an over reaching government who long since past had lost their faith in Christianity. Was that it? The economy had already fallen and socialism had sneaked in. The days of the friendly policeman in the neighborhood had been so long ago it was difficult to remember him. The list of things we could do in America was already over-shadowed by the things we couldn’t do or the things we longed to do again. The Constitution was becoming powerless; people were turning in and registering their guns. Gender identities were so mixed up it was hard to tell who was who and no one was really allowed to question anything anyway due to the ‘law of political correctness’. Was that it? There were so many rules, regulations and laws that everybody became a criminal whether by intention or not. Staying free of the law had already become a game of luck. Were these the things he wanted to warn me about?
Then one night I went to sleep and there he was in my dreams again. He looked so sad and his kind eyes were full of mournful compassion that I felt more fear than I ever had before, yet I knew he meant me no harm. He told me to do things. And, I did.
He handed me a piece of paper on which was an address and a single key. “Go here.” He said, “When you get there open the first door. Then wait.” So, in my dream, I went to the address and I opened the door. And, I waited. To my left were two more doors. They were not huge though the building from the outside appeared to be sizable. The outside of the building was plain, even dingy and unappealing. No further instructions had yet been given. After what seemed an eternity of boredom and wondering, the old man approached me again. This is what he said: “I am sending people here. I am sending them in groups. Each group goes into a specific door. You may ask them no questions. When the first room is full, shut and lock the door.” He smiled at me a tired smile and left.
The first group began to arrive and seemed never-ending. The people looked tired and wistful. Most seemed relieved to be able to rest. As they filed into the room, many gave me a smile or a nod. There was no air of anger, resentment or fear. Once the room was full I shut and locked the door expecting to hear shouts and screams of protest. I heard nothing. Soon, the old man reappeared and handed me a second key and I was given the same instructions. I waited for the second group. Grumblings and complaints, though mild, preceded this group, and many of them were annoyed yet not unkind. Some were certain they were being punished for something they had done. A few bemoaned the fact that they had made a lot of mistakes. Still, they went through the first door as if their doubts were only the protestations of habits learned over a lifetime. This group parading past me also seemed to have no end. Eventually, I was able to close and lock the door. This group, I told myself, are going to yell and scream at me and do everything they could to get out. No one did.
Fatigue began to wear on me. I waited nonetheless. And, I waited. I waited and I waited and I waited for the old man to return. Finally, I saw him. As he approached, I was sure I saw a little less sadness in his face. In his outstretched hand was another key. “This next group will be more difficult.” He said. “Just shut and lock the door when the room is full. Say nothing. When you are done I will return.” He patted my hand as he must have seen the fear that had crept into my face. Then he turned and walked away. After my longest wait yet, the third group began to arrive. Some shuffled and were most vocal in their complaints and gripes. Others loudly screamed injustice. Many shouted vulgar and nasty epitaphs at no one in general. Many threatened revenge and cursed God. Around this group was an aura of anger that I could almost smell. My heart raced as I stood there terrified wondering how I could ever lock this door. Hour by hour went by and the group kept coming. To my relief the room was suddenly filled and I found I could easily lock the door. From inside, I could hear the angry yells. I could sense the hatred. Tears fell down my cheeks as I prayed for the old man to come and relieve me of this fearful chore. And, then he was there.
I had started to get angry. “Why?” I asked him… did I have to do this? “Why? What’s going on?” I asked him. He looked at me with kindness and replied, “You had to do this because you have dreamed of me and because you had faith in me.” “But, you’re just a dream” I told him. “Dreams are just dreams.” “I’ll wake up and this will all be gone. It won’t even be a memory.” “I will be a memory. I will be your memory,” he cautioned. “I will be a just memory. You will remember me as you always have.” “How will you be a just memory?” I wanted to know. This is when he took my hand and we went to the second door. “Open it,” he said. With trembling hand I put the key in the locked and turn it. The door swung open and inside the room I saw a wonderful room full of comfort. I saw a feast, and I saw no people. All I could do was look at the old man in surprised bewilderment. My body started to relax. The old man took my hand and walked me to the first door. “Open this one,” he said. As the door swung open I was hit by the brightest most comforting calming light. Inside this room were the blessings of the second room but this room shone! It too, was empty. My tears stopped and my heart started to rejoice as I was beginning to see I had been part of something greater than me. “What about the third door?” I asked him. “Come,” he said. “Let’s unlock the third door.” As the key turned in the locked I tried to prepare myself for the anger I had seen and felt go into it. To my astonishment there was no room at all behind the door. There were no people. There was nothing.