Gallery of Misery!
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This is a story I wrote a few years ago about a visit from a very special Angel. It is fiction superimposed on actual events from the life of someone very close to me. I believe it fits very well with the Spirit of this Website. It is yet to be published.It is pretty long but I hope you enjoy it Let me know what you think. Thanks, Dennis Elmergreen


 “Mommy Daddy, James is by the water,” shouted David as his toddler brother darted towards the lake.  Fearing that he may fall in, David frantically ran over and tackled him down to the grass.  James began to cry.

“David, it’s okay, let him go, we’re watching him, he won’t fall in.” called out his mother as she got up from the picnic blanket and hurried over to the shoreline to pick up James.  He was so angry that he kicked at his brother as she untangled the two of them.  She lovingly reassured David of his safety and he released his grip.  Esther scooped James into her arms.  Her gentle touch quickly calmed his indignation and he smiled at her.  Such a wonderful mother and so beautiful, I could have stared at her for a lifetime and never become bored. 

I took James from her and swung him up in the air.  He giggled.  “My turn, my turn” shouted David.  I grabbed him and swung him up even higher.  “More daddy, more daddy” they both implored.

“Victor, how are the steaks coming?” asked Esther as she tickled David’s stomach.

“They’re fine, maybe another five minutes.”  The combinations of the breeze off the lake and charcoal from the grill provided such a delightful aroma, but it was nothing compared to the scent of Esther’s skin after a few hours out in the summer sun.

Esther was so beautiful that I couldn’t resist the impulse to leap over and pull her down on the picnic blanket.  The boys joined in and jumped on top of us.  “Victor, Victor, be patient I am all yours when we get home.”

 “I can’t wait that long” I protested.  She laughed and gave me a pout.

She stood up and pointed to the descending fire ball in the sky.”  Victor, look at the beautiful sunset, maybe we’ll see the green flash tonight.”

I walked over to the grill.  “They are ready” I placed the steaks on the cutting board and began to slice them in small pieces for the boys.  Esther walked up behind me and kissed me on the neck causing an almost painful tickle to reverberate throughout my body.  I shivered with delight.


The sound of the car door slam jolted me back to reality.  I stretch out my stiff back as I stood up.  Caroline, my wife of thirty-five years approached and said.  “Your flower gardens look simply stunning.  The grounds of these apartments must be the most beautiful in the city if not the state.”

“Thanks.”  The ache in my knees reminded me of the forty years that had passed since that scene by the lake with Esther.  “I am about done for today.  I’ll get my things together, lock up and head for home.”

“Supper is in the refrigerator.  I’m going to my book club meeting and should be home around nine tonight.  Here are some of the August rent checks that came in the mail.”  

I stuffed them in my shirt pocket and said, “I’ll stop by the bank on the way home.”  Caroline gave me a peck on the cheek and departed.  I walked to the work shed behind the apartment building, put the tools away, sat down on an old couch, closed my eyes and returned to the lake.

The sun was setting over the lake and the boys were sleeping on the blanket.  Esther and I snuggled as we absorbed the final golden glow from the disappearing sun beneath the far shore.  Her head on my shoulder, my arms tightly around her we silently reflected on the wonderment of nature.  Those evening picnics were the highlight of my life.  We were so happy.  I loved my young family. As the memory faded, I thought, 

“God I miss her, the world is so empty without her.”

As the owner of several rental properties, maintained solely by myself, I had the freedom to return uninterrupted to those wonderful days of the distant past with my beloved Esther.  Unfortunately, as the years passed, it became increasingly more difficult to draw her back to me.  A period of intensified despair always followed these fantasies of her.  It painfully reminded me of what I lost.

I made a quick stop at the night depository at the bank then drove home.  I heated up my supper in the microwave and sat down in front of the television to watch the news.  It wasn’t long before I dozed off.  Upon wakening, I decided to go to bed.  My body felt old and tired as I walked up stairs to our bedroom.  Once in bed, I fell fast asleep and didn’t even notice that Caroline had arrived home and joined me.

I slept undisturbed until just before dawn.  Suddenly I saw the cherub-like face of a young girl, beautiful in complexion with blue eyes, golden hair and dressed in white.  She hovered over me and the energy of her presence penetrated something deep inside me beyond anything that I can mindfully describe.

The girl said no words but just hovered close by with a paralyzing energy force.  It felt like she wanted to move inside my soul.  She was much too close for me to handle.  Her imposing presence burned through my defenses releasing a cauldron of feelings.  I began to weep uncontrollably.  I cried so loudly that I woke up Caroline.  She turned the light on in the bedroom and was quite alarmed when she saw me curled up in the fetal position, crying intensely.  She never before saw me cry.  “Victor, Victor wake up, you’re having a bad dream, wake up.”  She shook my shoulders until I became conscious.  It took the better part of an hour for me to regain my composure.  I did not share the image of the girl with Caroline. 

 I frantically strove to ward off the intense feelings cause by the dream and repair the devastation to my defenses.  After I settled down, I did my best to minimize the significance of the event to Caroline, but she was not easy to fool. 

The next day was a very difficult.  I lived in a gloomy haze but forced myself to go about my daily routine.  It was impossible to engage in a fantasy about my life with Esther.  My spirit was too disturbed.  Since my workdays involved minimal interpersonal contact, I made it through without exposing my downcast disposition to others.

Once back home in the evening, it was obvious to Caroline that something was wrong with me.  “Victor, tell me what is going on.  You have never been like this before.”

 “I am not sure, but don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

       “You know, Victor, I have always respected your privacy.  You are a good man.  I’ve never been intrusive, but last night frightened me and that image of you curled up in the bed sobbing so loudly is etched in my mind.  I do not feel it is something you can minimize as no big deal.”   

       “I don’t understand it either, but I will be fine, don’t worry.”  As I spoke, tears filled my eyes.  My voice began to crack.

       Caroline walked over by me and put her arm around me.  “I am worried.  I want you to be okay.  I promise to help you but please don’t shut me out anymore.” 

  My rational self wanted to reassure her that I was fine and tried to squelch out the feelings, but the more predominant part of me could only hug her in silence.  It felt so good to be close to her.  It had been years since I hugged anyone like that.  Caroline was such a warm and loving woman.  It was a shame I never allowed myself to be this close to her.  Our connection provided a feeling of serenity and calmness. 

She looked in my eyes, “I would like you to see the Doctor and at least talk to him about what happened.  He may be familiar with these kinds of incidents and be able to help.” 

       I could tell that she was not going to accept no for an answer.  I reluctantly responded, “Okay, fine, but please could you call the office and set it up for me.”  She readily agreed.

       Caroline was a fine woman.  She was 15 years my junior and still very attractive.  She was physically fit, conscientious about her personal appearance, and has an undying faith in her family and God.  She raised our children so well, unfortunately mainly on her own.  Yet, she has always believed in me, even though I was mainly her roommate.

 I looked at Caroline more observantly that night, the first time in a long while.  Her hair had very little gray in it.  I could not say whether she colored it or not.  Her skin was smooth with minimal wrinkles.  Her smile was warm and loving.  “What a mistake for her to waste her life with me.”  I thought.

       I went to bed for the night.  I had no dreams or visits of any sort.  I wished the little girl would come back and bring clarity to her purpose.  She caused quite a stir in my life, yet the thought of it terrified me. 





Caroline made the Doctor’s appointment for later that week.  I dreaded it.  I knew the Doctor would be concerned.  I was not going to tell him about the dream.  How could I explain to him that a dream of a little girl caused me to cry and feel so depressed?  For God’s sake, I was sixty-nine years old and self-sufficient.

Caroline asked if she could come in the examining room with me.  I agreed.  The nurse did the preliminaries before the appointment.  All vital signs were within normal limits.  The Doctor entered and was cordial as usual.  He asked me if there were any problems.  I started to say that there was no problem but I was in for a general checkup, but before I could adequately minimize any concerns;  Caroline interrupted, “Doctor, Victor had an incident last week that seriously scared me.  We need a thorough workup because I never saw him like that before. There’s something going on.”  She went on to share with him the events of that early morning and how I was crying uncontrollably in the fetal position.

 The Doctor gave no particular opinion, but said, given my age; he recommended some general testing to rule out any serious medical problems.  We completed the basic components of the physical examination.  Everything appeared to be normal but he still ordered further testing at the hospital.

I hated being in the waiting room at the hospital and hated going through the tests.  The staff treated me very well, but they must have assumed that my Doctor suspected a serious problem because they treated me with sympathy. 

A week later, we met at the Doctor’s office to review the test results.  To our relief, the tests revealed no problems.  There was no evidence of a stroke or any other type of obvious medical condition.  However, he said that he felt it would still be in my best interest to continue with further testing.  He referred me to a neuropsychologist who specialized in memory problems and dementia.  When he said the word dementia, I felt a wave of anxiety flow through my body.  I wondered whether this whole thing could be the result of some type of old age deterioration.  I started to doubt the validity of the dream even more.  Caroline also was very worried.  We knew people who had died from Alzheimer’s, and the thought of going through that deterioration myself terrified me.  I wanted to procrastinate and tell the Doctor I would be glad to do it some day but put it off as long as I could.  Before we left the office, I had an appointment card in hand for the next week.

       The following days were a blur to me, characterized by continued pessimism, gloom and fear, but not quite resignation.  I had much self-doubt.  I really did not know that much about Alzheimer’s disease.  I knew that I was in the age group where it was common.  I did some reading, which indicated that there were medications that can slow the progression but there was no known cure.  I tried to think of an excuse to postpone the process, but my powers of denial were so weak.  I could do little to fight back against the darkness and fear inside me. 

       Without question, I was severely depressed.  I had known depression in the past during difficult times, but had forgotten that it was so painful.  I had done such a good job of staving off bad feelings over the years.

       The neuropsychologist was friendly but impersonal.  He asked many questions and I filled out some forms.  I felt that most of the questions were really none of his business, but I begrudgingly complied.  I mentioned nothing of the dream.  Over the next two weeks, I went through approximately six hours of testing.  He summarized the results at my last appointment.  He stated that I was severely depressed, minimizing personal problems, but my memory and intellectual functioning were strong for my age.  I left the office feeling relieved that I was not suffering from Alzheimer's, but now possessed the label as a ”depressive.”  He recommended treatment including both medication and psychotherapy. 

       The next day I started taking an antidepressant.  I did not like its effects; it made me feel tired and light-headed.  I could not believe this was happening to me.  I had never seen a Psychotherapist nor had I ever been on antidepressant medication.  I thought it was for those who were mentally ill, or at least mentally weak, neither of which were ever relevant to me.  I complied to satisfy Caroline.

       Caroline and I were getting closer during this time.  There was much more touching going on between the two of us.  She functioned more as a mother to me but I very much appreciated her care.  I became increasingly self-absorbed and oblivious to her feelings and needs.  She was so concerned about me that not once did she complain.  She informed the children of my state but advised them not to talk with me directly.  She said that would make me uncomfortable.  She knew me very well. 

       The Psychotherapist was actually a Psychologist.  He was a man in his mid-40s, polite and quite skilled at getting me to talk about personal matters.  To my surprise, I ended up telling a great deal more than I ever thought.  In fact, before I left our first session I told him about the dream.  I was impressed with his ability to meddle into my personal affairs and make it so natural for me to divulge private information.  I talked about things I had not thought about in years.  I told him about my childhood, that I was the youngest of a family of six, grew up on a farm, and that my mother had died when I was twelve years old.  I was raised thereafter mainly by older siblings but was essentially out on my own by age fifteen, even though I was living with my sister. 

       I also shared with him the other major event in my life besides the death of my mother, the death of my first wife, Esther.  Just saying the words to him about our marriage, our two sons and her death during the childbirth of our third child, our only daughter, unearthed feelings and images long since faded by time.  It felt so strange to talk about these things.  The feelings and memories were still so powerful.  It felt good to talk and I felt much better by the end of the session.  We did not have time to go into any detail about the dream so we scheduled another appointment.  I looked forward to our next session.  I told Caroline that it went well and we planned to meet again.

       At our second session, the discussion continued at the same level of quality.  I shared with him, as closely as I could remember the events of the night of the dream.  I described the image of a little girl eyes, the power of her presence, her beauty, the sense that she knew me, the eruption of my emotions and the period of sobbing afterwards.  I feared that he would view this experience as a sign of mental illness and use it against me, yet the conversation flowed so smoothly.

       Beyond my expectations, the Doctor was very affirming of the whole event.  He framed it as something positive, possibly meant for my own good.  He encouraged me to be open to whatever purpose or meaning the experience may have for me.  He shared that my following period of depression may be more the result of my effort to stuff back inside all the feelings brought out that night.  He said that if I could be comfortable with the process of releasing these feelings either as part of our therapy or on my own, much good would come out of it.  I felt much better leaving his office and looked forward to our third appointment.

       I saw the Doctor a few more times.  Each time, before our session, I questioned if I had anything-meaningful left to discuss.  After each session, it surprised me that so much came out and how much better I felt.  Spontaneous topics emerged, along with more emotions than I expected.  My depression started to subside.  I was feeling stronger and more optimistic.  Caroline also noticed the improvement.  If things would have stopped at that point, I would have been sufficiently content.

       However, I knew the business with this little girl was not over.  I sensed that she was waiting for me to get ready for her return.  I trembled with fear as I thought of that possibility, yet I knew it must happen.  I longed to see her.  I thought of her image throughout the day and it brought a feeling of tranquility.


       My relationship with Caroline was going through a metamorphosis.  We actually played games together, watched television programs, and were growing closer physically since I stopped the antidepressant medication.  She was a vibrant woman capable of an active physical relationship with a husband.  I had been so neglectful of her needs over the years.  This area also was on the mend.

       On September 30, as I slept peacefully next to Caroline, the little girl reappeared.  Her face was the same radiant and loving beauty as before, but she seemed much more familiar this time.  I knew her and she clearly knew me.  This was no mental illness, stroke or Alzheimer’s; neither was it a dream in a formal sense.  She was separate from me and she was real.  She had a purpose for coming.  She stayed longer that night.  Whether it was minutes or hours, I could not tell.  She said no words but conveyed an overwhelming sense of love and concern for me.  I felt sad when she left, but was confident that she would return and the next time she would expect more from me. 

Up until that time, I had not told Caroline anything about the dreams.  I felt I had a duty to tell her, since the experience was such an integral part of my recent struggles.

As we sat at the table after dinner the following night, I started by saying, “Caroline, I have to tell you something.”  I started to feel anxiety as if I were confessing some type of infidelity.  She looked uncomfortable and alarmed as if I were about to tell her something that would hurt her.  I continued, “There is something that I haven’t told you, but I believe it’s time.  What I am about to tell you does not involve another woman.” 

        “You promise?” 

       “I promise, I am not sure exactly why we’re talking about this, but I swear to you I have never been unfaithful to you.”

       She started to cry.  “I feared that you were going to tell me about an affair and I don’t know if I have the strength to handle something like that at this time in my life.  For years I wondered if there was someone else, you were so distant and unapproachable.”  Tears streamed down her cheeks.  We obviously needed to talk about this topic.  I reassured her of my absolute faithfulness to her and swore my allegiance until death. 

       Once relieved of this burden between us, I stated, “There is still something I need to tell you.”  She looked up at me as I spoke.  “What I need to tell you has nothing to do with other women in that way, but it does involve a female.  Again, she looked alarmed.  “The breakdown I had that night last August was in response to an image that appeared to me while I was sleeping.  It was that of a young girl.  It was like a dream but felt so real.  She was childlike, pure and innocent, clothed in white with beautiful blue eyes, a flushed face, golden hair, angelic in appearance.” 

       Caroline’s composure changed to one of curiosity.  "Tell me more." 

       “The little girl was so kind to me in her expressions.  I felt that she loved me.  I am not sure exactly the basis of such feelings but it felt real.  After speaking with the Psychologist, I had the strength to open myself up to see her again.  She came again last night.  This time it wasn’t frightening to me.  I enjoyed her presence, she felt like the most intimate friend or closest of family.  We were together for what seemed like a long time.  In reality it was just a brief moment for when I woke up afterwards it was still early in the night.  I know she came to me for a good purpose and she will come again.  After last night, I felt it was too big for me to conceal any longer.  Nothing like this has ever happened to me before and I feared that you might view it as something bad or a sign of mental illness."  Our conversation had moved us to a new level of intimacy, a territory where we really didn’t know each other.  I hoped she could join me in my inquiry of the dream and not dismiss or invalidate it as something superfluous. 

       “Don’t worry; I just want you to be comfortable telling me the truth no matter what.  We have been together for so many years but there has always been a barrier between us.  For the first time since I have been with you, this feels heart-felt and I certainly want to be a part of it.” 

       I smiled warmly at her and continued.  “I believe there’s more to come and if, by chance, this is an indication that my time is ending on Earth and this is my death call, I wanted us to have an opportunity to talk openly about things.  I do not want to die now and leave you alone, especially since we’re getting so close.”

“Thank you for trusting me with this information.  The last few months now make more sense to me.  I don’t think it is a sign of sickness.  It is really quite intriguing.”

  I was so thankful for Caroline’s response to my story.  She seemed relieved and very pleased that I confided in her.  She felt the genuineness in my words.  Our relationship was deepening beyond anything that had ever occurred before between us.  I felt the deep satisfaction of warm love, something I had not experienced in almost half a century.

       The conversation went so well with Caroline.  She was a woman of substance and depth.  I wasted so many years in my emotional cocoon.  The so-called dream had started something wonderful in my life but I knew it was only the beginning.  It was a profound experience, yet the overall impact was only superficial.  Deep down in my psyche there remained a huge block of emotional ice.  It had been warmed by the little girl’s visits, but it was going to take a much greater and sustaining heat to bring a thaw to my soul.  The process had begun and I no longer had the power to reverse it.


       A few weeks passed and we were now approaching the Thanksgiving holiday.  The boys and their families would be coming home for the day.  Caroline was a wonderful host and always created a warm Thanksgiving holiday for the family.  In the past, we worked together well in preparing the house and meal.  I was cordial to the boys and their families but conversations were usually minimal and confined to the mundane.  I learned almost nothing of substance about them during our visits and they just seemed happy that I was in good health.

       This holiday season was different.  Caroline had been in contact with them and shared my struggles these past months and I knew they were worried about me.  It would be difficult to stay limited to surface conversation.  This time their questions would naturally be more personal.  I wanted to be more personal too, but did not feel ready to practice the changes that were occurring inside of me.

       The arrival time was set for 9:00 a.m. so that we could watch the Thanksgiving parade together in the morning and both football games that followed.  It was always an extra special day when the Green Bay Packers were scheduled to play.

       We trained the boys as children to be punctual, a characteristic that persisted into adulthood.  By 9:10, all were in the house, coats off and settling in for a day of feasting and relaxing.

       The three oldest were married and had children.  David and James were now grown men with careers and families.  I wonder if they also conjured up old memories of those happy days when their mother was alive.  Caroline and I had two more sons Edward and John.  You would not know from outward appearances that Caroline was not the mother of the two older boys.  She had established a deep emotional bond with both of the boys, their wives and children.  From the entrance into our family as such a young woman, she was uniquely skilled in maneuvering through the maze of feelings and defenses common in families where the biological mother had died.  She seemed able to intuit the boy’s readiness for a relationship with her.  She was so wise in her manner with them and never put herself in competition with their mother.  She insisted that I functioned as the disciplinarian, knowing that stepchildren deeply resent punishment by a stepparent when there was not first a foundation of trust and affection.  Once the boys started to let down their guard and trust her, they began to absorb the goodness of her care.  Only then, could she set limits and direct their behavior as a parent.  We had no old scars haunting us from years of alienation that characterize so many blended families today.  Consequently, they all cherished these special moments of family togetherness and cleared their schedules accordingly.

       The boys knew I cared for them, but almost none of these feelings ever reach the surface for expression.  Our manner of relating was so limited.  David was obsessed with telling me a litany of his accomplishments in the construction business.  He was ambitious and thrifty with money, a trait directly inherited from his old man.  I superficially complimented him on his accomplishments; it was obvious that he felt my response to him was grossly inadequate.  On that day, he told me of a new project he had started in Waupaca, a medium sized city in Central Wisconsin.  He was building a series of condominiums and felt the price he negotiated allowed for unusually high profits.  I responded, "That's wonderful, son, you have done well for yourself."  Even though the words were affirming, I could see the disappointment in his eyes.  What more did he want?  I just was not sure.  I realize now that he wanted to feel a connection with me and it just was not happening.

       James was a professor of European history at a small private university.  He experienced many positive changes over the years and now was thriving in his marriage and career.  I was curious as to the cause of these changes but our conversations were exceptionally superficial.  We discussed the weather, the Packers and local politics, but nothing remotely personal.  I knew we were becoming strangers, but was completely at a loss to change things.

       Edward and John my sons with Caroline have always been close and happy.  Caroline did an admiral job in raising them.  Thank God, they were spared the pain of losing a mother.

       I enjoyed these family gatherings, but also found them to be exhausting.  I loved my family very much, but struggled between my need to avoid anything personal and my desire to bond with them.

       On this Thanksgiving, the tone was one of concern for me.  I did not like their sympathy for me.  I worked hard to reassure them that everything was once again fine and that they should not worry.

  I wanted so badly to find that elusive connection with them and was now highly cognizant of its absence.  We had a nice day together, but no open discussion ever occurred with them regarding the difficulties I experienced during the past summer.  I felt disappointed in myself and that I had let Caroline down.  She responded that evening by complementing my efforts to join in with the family.  

        “I felt so pleased to see you sitting right in the middle of the room with everyone around.  It meant a great deal to all of us to have you there.” 

“Honestly?  I felt so awkward and inept.  The boys seemed to just tolerate me and I added nothing to the conversation.”

“Victor, you were so different today.  You listened, asked questions and played with the children.  Everyone was delighted with your new way of relating to us.”

       I was surprised to hear her say this.  I then remembered that I left the house on many family holidays in the past with the excuse that I had some pressing work to do in order to be ready for the next day


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