I was gasping for breath. What caused this? I thought to myself. It’s that dream, the dream I’m drowning.

Margie and I had a deal. If I got in trouble during the night, I was to wake her.

“What’s up with you?”  Angel asked mind to mind, as she alighted on the bed. Angel has been part of my daily life for seven decades, a gift given to me by the Universe. She pops in and out of my day faster than a steam locomotive.

“I’m in serious trouble,” I answered.

“Why don’t you wake her?”

“I know, I know,” I said, becoming more worried as time went on. “It must be the altitude out here, and the stress of the flight, I haven’t been breathing this poorly for years. I didn’t suspect my asthma would be an issue.”

One of the hallmarks of coming from a dysfunctional/abusive childhood home is being independent to a fault. Now my propensity not to ask for help could derail the trip I am so looking forward to.

The rhythm of Margie’s breathing changed.

“Oh no, did I wake her?”

After a long day of walking back and forth to the train station and seeing the sights of the celebration in Ogden, Margie would need a good night’s sleep.

“Get your rescue inhaler!” Angel asserted.

I reached out to the nightstand and found my flashlight, the one with the lanyard, the one I keep especially for this purpose, the purpose of lighting my way in unfamiliar surroundings.

Using my elbows to help me slide to the headboard, I put a pillow behind me and sat up. By this time, I was taking rapid, shallow breaths.

“That kind of breathing must stop, you’ll hyperventilate. Sit on the side of the bed and catch your breath.” I listened to Angel’s gentle guidance; Angel’s my Intuition. 

Finding my emergency inhaler on the nightstand, I made several deep inhalations of Albuterol. It wouldn’t take too many minutes for the inhaler’s medicines to work. In the meantime, I formulated the plan: If my normal breathing couldn’t be restored by the inhaler, I would wake Margie, get dressed, and call 911.

In the past, I practiced a regular breathing exercise called `boxing my breath,’ a process of taking in a breath for several seconds, holding my breath, exhaling and holding my breath again, over and over, at least four times. This usually restored my normal rate of breathing.  

It is not the lack of air that is the total problem, panic leads to hyperventilation and possibly passing out. I don’t panic easily, or at least I haven’t, despite the many difficult adverse experiences of my past. I pride myself on this.

Pride goes before the fall. 

I don’t do well alone – especially at night, I never have. My recently acquired adult asthma added another layer to my nightly discomfort and convinced me that I needed help from those I love and trust. No more macho-superman stuff for me.

Carefully rising from the bed, I steadied myself against the wall and made my way into the bathroom.

I closed the bathroom door and turned on the light. Finding my long-acting cortisone spray, I took two deep puffs and held my breath to the count of ten after each one.

These are miracle drugs, I thought to myself. Within moments my breathing became less labored.

“Who is this man?” I said out loud to Angel who was standing beside me as I looked into the vanity mirror. I always wondered if the person I saw in the mirror was really me. Looks are always so deceptive.  

“It’s you, don’t worry you’ll be fine. I am with you. Believe in me, you are loved.”

Although I could not see Angel, I felt her presence. I sat on the toilet lid. My breathing slowed and my lightheadedness passed. I turned out the light and quietly opened the bathroom door and made my way back to bed. Sitting upright, I listened for Margie. Her breathing rhythm seemed normal. I sat up for an hour; for you see, remnants of the nightmare are still flooding through my veins and now I am in what I call ‘the zone,’ an in-between area, the nightmare and the real world. And I ask myself, which is the worse of two evils – a night without sleep or a double nightmare night.

After 60 long minutes, I felt better, rolled flat and fell asleep.

The Invitation


Peg was not up to this trip, she wished to stay home. How interesting could a restored sixty-year-old steam locomotive be? Although Peg and I have done everything together, this trip to Ogden, UT, was more than her age and infirmities would comfortably allow.

My wife and I have had a love affair from the beginning; I am ten years younger than her, now our physical abilities are out of sync.

Peg suggested I ask Margie to go with me for company, and to help me with the fall-out from my frequent and violent nightmares. We have known Margie for ten years; she is younger than I, and in good health. Her presence on the trip would be greatly appreciated. I would pick up all the expenses, the trip would not cost Margie any money; she was doing me the favor.

I met Margie through a close friend who knew that I struggled with my past. With a Bachelor and Master’s degree in Social Work, for over thirty years, Margie has worked with people from dysfunctional, abusive situations. Because of her background, she was perfect for me. Slowly, trust grew via frequently exchanged emails and talking on the phone. Her understanding of the effects of child abuse on a man’s mental health kept me close to her.

If Margie decided the trip was not for her, I would not go. That would have been a great disappointment to me. A complete restoration of a steam locomotive of this size had never been attempted before and this would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. 

4014 is the largest steam locomotive in the world to be restored to full working condition. I couldn’t believe my good fortune when I read the locomotive would come out of restoration and be on public display in Ogden, UT in May 2019.

4014 would arrive in Ogden to help with the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the hammering of the Golden Spike, joining the east and west railroads at Promontory Point.

Originally, I made my initial request to Margie by phone; she suggested I come over for tea to explore the idea in greater detail. She had not completely ruled out going, however, steam locomotives were not a big interest to her.

Margie might go as a special favor to Peg and me. I was hoping she would find interesting things to do in Ogden while I was busy viewing the train. I am too young to stop going to interesting places and events.

I had to admire Margie’s spunk in considering spending four days in the company of a man she didn’t know all that well. 

Margie said she would go online to the Union Pacific site and look at the events planned for that special weekend in Ogden. To my surprise, after doing some research, she seemed enthusiastic about the trip – the walkable town, and the celebration fair.

There was one big decision for the two of us to make, the sleeping accommodations.

The purpose of Margie going was not only for the companionship, but also to help me in the middle of the night, which would not work unless I could book a suite with two separate but connecting sleeping areas. If I got in trouble, Margie would throw me a lifeline.

This was to be a pleasure trip, a good night’s sleep in a nice hotel was part of my plan.

            “Okay, I’ll go,” Margie had said.

            “See there,” Angel said. “Everything always works out if you believe it will.” That’s why I love Angel and why she was always nearby.

The next morning in the Ogden hotel coffee shop

            “I heard you last night. Why didn’t you get me up?” Margie’s concern was evident in the caring way she asked the question.

            “I should have, I have trouble asking for help, but you know that.”

            “That’s why I am here. Tell me about it, don’t hold back.”

            “Well, let me sit for a bit and sip my coffee.”