The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get used to the latter.
EPISODE ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY ONE: THEN VS. NOW VS. TOMORROW
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.
One of my favorite things I used to do when I was a kid was jumping on my bike early in the morning and riding around my block. As soon as the sun started to creep over the roof of houses, I was pedaling my orange and black BMX bike and feeling the cool morning air before the summer heat turned the same air into an oven. I was usually alone with only the occasional car passing me on the way to work or the store or wherever.
I never worried about being taken. Or hurt.
…or killed as I rode alone.
I felt safe in my neighborhood.
This was the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. It was a different time.
But now that I’m in my late 40’s, I know the truth.
It wasn’t the 50’s when most people in neighborhoods like mine didn’t lock their doors. They trusted their neighbors and felt evilness and vileness was something that happened far away from them.
When I was riding my bike alone, murders were happening every day. Parts of the country were being terrorized by serial killers ( Theodore Kaczynski and Jeffery Dahmer were just starting out and the world was finding out about Ted Bundy, plus many more) and we entered the time of mass shootings and airplane hijacking by terrorists. Hardcore drugs were front-page news and on the TV news.
And the country was still reeling from the Vietnam war.
And I was riding my bike alone.
The funny thing was, I remember seeing some of this stuff on TV. I remember hearing about the child murders in Atlanta. Though these kids were a different color, I didn’t see it that way. I saw that they were my age. I thought if I lived there, I could be taken, too.
That was somewhere else. Not where I was.
But the more I saw this stuff on TV, it started to stick. And that was about the time something clicked. Worry and anxiety started to creep into my thoughts.
I started to make sure doors were locked before I went to bed. I hadn’t even hit double digits with my age. I started to turn on the lights before I entered a room. I made sure the ‘coast was clear’ from my bedroom windows before I laid down at night. I would wake up to sounds coming from somewhere in the dark and I would lie awake and wondered, ‘Is someone here for me?’
Slowly, I stopped riding my bike alone. When I did get my bike out, I felt better when my dad or mom was outside to see me. Or if I saw other people in the neighborhood, people I knew, mowing their lawns are walking around the block. Or on the few occasions when I had friends to hang out with.
But I still worried.
I started to stay in my yard or inside and played alone. When I saw someone walking down the street that I didn’t know, I would hide behind one of two bushes next to our front steps until they passed by or I would go into the backyard with my dogs or climb a damn tree. Being shy didn’t help but before I started to worry, I at least stayed where I was and ignored whomever and went about my business.
As I became older and entered the world more, I became braver. I didn’t worry so much about being abducted and killed.
But I was (and still am) always on guard.
Now… things to feel… worse. Mass shootings seem to be happening every day. You can’t go anywhere without the thought of someone coming in and shooting up the place. I am always looking for where the exits are and who might look suspicious.
I have caught myself looking in my rearview window to see if I’m being followed. I check the parking lot of the condo I live in for unfamiliar cars.
Speaking of, the condo next to us used to be rented out and the owners would rent to whomever. We have had an animal abuser and a child abuser (same person and now, thankfully, in jail) and recently, a seller of drugs (fact, got the videos to prove it) and a prostitute (that’s alleged but I’d bet on it). There were different cars showing up and leaving after ‘purchases’. It became constant and I became scared, not so much for me but for my wife and my daughter when she would come over. I started to stop asking my daughter not to come over from fear.
And, luckily, they moved away.
Then, just a few days ago, I had just got to work and my wife texted me, telling me she had noticed a vehicle in a parking spot next to my usual spot. Some guy just sitting there playing on his phone. She texted me about it and after a couple of seconds, I gathered my stuff and headed home. When I got there, he was still there. I parked in my spot and when I got out, I just stared at him for a minute. As soon as I got inside and looked out the window, he left.
I have no idea why he was there. But I didn’t have a good feeling about it.
And I know other people have dealt with, not just things like that, but worse things.
And that’s the world we live in.
Odds are, that has always been the world we lived in.
Not just when I was a kid riding my bike alone early in the morning before I started to take my little self around the house and check the locks and give the world outside my window a look-see before putting my head on the pillow and probably not even in the ’50s when everything seemed hunky-dory (Leave It To Beaver-Esq).
Bad things were done by bad people all of the time.
It’s just in our face more with the news.
Or… the badness has inclined as time ticks by.
And, like most parents, we worry about what kind of world our children are seeing. And what they will see tomorrow. And what their children will see.
Badness will never disappear. We know this. And, maybe, if things are getting worse, it will continue upward until the end of time.
We just have to start with ourselves. We have to get the badness in us to decline. Even if it’s a little bit every day.
Maybe one day, another child will feel safe when they ride their bike alone like I once did.
-Loyd Elmore Jr
February 21st, 2020
I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.