There is a herd of elephants in my living room. Sometimes there are so many elephants lolling about that there is hardly enough room for me to settle down, have a cup of tea and watch the Red Sox on a warm summer evening.

They are the elephants of my childhood. Snidely grinning elephants. Scary elephants. One pachyderm carries a belt. I know he’s going to beat me. Others smile sweetly. I don’t to trust those smiles. These are not real. The smiles are camouflage to hide an evil so deep it makes my blood turn watery.


For most of my life I had a recurring nightmare. I would be sitting in the middle of some particularly bucolic setting, a field, meadow or alongside babbling brook. The day would be perfect. Blue sky, puffy clouds and sunshine. I was happy. Content to sit and watch the birds, bunnies or butterflies. In the midst of this bucolic setting, the cute little creatures would transform into flying or crawling little monsters that would swarm over me. I’d wake up screaming, drenched in sweat.

The monsters were never the same twice. Sometimes they looked like spiders or snakes; other times, they resembled nothing in the real world. Perhaps they could have emerged from the primordial ooze or a sleazy horror movie.

Always there were many monsters attacking simultaneously. Escape was impossible and in any case, I was paralyzed with terror unable to run, barely able to scream. Only waking ended the attack. But not the fear. The fear stuck around.

The dream sometimes went away for a few months, but inevitably returned. And so it continued for more than forty years. Finally — a lifetime later — all the little monsters came together and formed a face. My father.

My eyes snapped open. I was fully awake and understood.

I never had the dream again.

Categories: Animals, Family, Personal, Writing

Tags: , , , , , ,

18 replies

  1. You fought something inside your mind for four decades?
    That is incredible.


  2. Very, very, very good writing!


  3. I am sorry to hear that you had to go through 40 years of being tormented by this but it is good of you to share this story. If it is any consolation, very few people have lives untouched by the cruelty of others. In reading your blog, I have come to appreciate that you were quite good at finding happiness along the way. It strikes me too that you chose a partner who is entirely unlike your father.

    Elephants are such interesting creatures. All that is good about them stems from the matriarchy and what is most frightening comes from the raging, rampant bull males who seek to impregnate the females. If the life of elephants is not a clear illustration of dualism, I do not know what is.

    It is always interesting to see how people choose to live their lives. In that regard, I think the Seven UP series directed by Michael Apted offers great insight. Life is so complex and it defies simple classification nor can it be codified as if there were rules that govern the outcome. But there is hope that people can sort things out. In your case, you listened to your dreams. Good for you.


    • Thank you. I love real elephants. Always have. Their symbolic quality in dreams is something outside my conscious control. Yes, I had a rough beginning and some pretty rough stuff along the way. I’ve gone through a lot of depression, but I hate being depressed and fight it. I think — ironically — the very bad things that happened to me when I was little made me into a fighter. It’s harder now because I’m older, disabled and poor. But within the limits of what’s possible, I still fight back. If I’m going down, it won’t be in quiet despair. It’ll be very noisy, loud, public despair 🙂 I’ll have to see if I can find the Seven UP series. I never heard of it before.

      Life is very complex. Even more complex are the varied ways we respond to it. Take a few people with virtually identical histories and compare them. Their responses will be very different. Even when they are siblings.



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