AMBIENT THOUGHT – EPISODE Two Hundred Seventeen: One Particular Moment

The following and all of the other episodes 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.


Life is short, and every moment is precious.

Gad Saad

I have talked about a lot of moments in my life. Some play a huge significance in how I have become me; these are my touchstones.

But there are lots of moments that were not earthshaking pieces of time.
At least, that’s what I initially thought. After years of looking back on a particular moment, I find that it was a lot bigger.

Here’s one:

I’m in my garage in my childhood home. My dad turned the garage into two separate parts. One side held his workshop (a place that I can still see when I think about it, with the smells of oil, burning solder, and paint. The other side was part storage and part hangout. This is where we stored our bikes and my skateboard, and outdoor equipment. Shelves under the windows held old wine and Avon bottles and a few plants. Against the wall next to the door that went into the den was our old couch. In the space to its left against the wall between the door to my dad’s shop and the laundry room sat an old television. It was a giant tubed black and white TV. Dad liked fixing these, what is thought of now as behemoth-sized technology that used vacuum tubes to power it (look it up, kids).
This TV did work, but the large tube that held the picture took almost ten whole minutes to warm up before you could see the picture.

Also, we had an all-white cat named Tom. He just happened to be my first cat (the first cat of many in my life). He had been a stray and found us. We loved him for a few years before finally needing to be put to sleep after developing feline leukemia.
We were reminded of him every day if we laid down on the couch in the garage. His shed white hair would stick to you and your clothes and would have to change.

So, the moment I’m trying to tell you about happened out in that garage sometime after Christmas. What year? I don’t remember exactly. Maybe 1981 or 1982. Somewhere around there. But I know it was January or February. It was cold outside. One of the things I got for Christmas was a rock tumbler. In case you don’t have any idea what one of those is, I’ll explain. It comes in a container the size of a shoebox. It has a motor that slowly spins a small bucket that lays on its side. What you do is you place rough rocks, semi-precious stones, inside the bucket with some water, and grit. As the bucket spins, the grit and water begin to smooth the rocks. After a few days, you open the bucket, empty the dirty water and the grit, rinse the stones off, and then place them back inside the bucket. Then you add a finer grit and more water, close it all in the bucket and place it back on the tumbler and turn it back on. More days go by as the rocks become smoother and smoother. Finally, you empty the bucket, wash off the stones, and you add a polishing grit with more water, and let that sucker turn even longer. I may not be telling you exactly how it works but that’s it in a nutshell. When the rocks are as smooth as they are going to get, you can make jewelry out of them.
Did you get the hint that it takes many hours and many days to get them that smooth?
It does.
It was more than what my parents could handle.
I was limited to the amount of time I could have on the loud, power-draining contraption.

Anyway, like I said, one night in January or February, I was out in the cold garage letting the rock tumbler tumble and guarding it so I could coax a couple of more hours out of it before my parents couldn’t take it anymore. The only light in the garage I had on was coming from the dimmed light of the struggling black and white TV. I lay on the hairy couch and looked out the window into the dark night.
I suddenly had an odd feeling gripping me. My chest started to get tight and my eyes seemed to bulge in their sockets. My breathing became rapid and I started to sweat.
I had no idea what was happening. But I know what I was feeling.
No, that’s wrong.
It was more like FEAR.
I had the feeling the earth had dropped away leaving our house floating in the black void of space. Nothing existed past the window pane.
It took many years to realize what had happened.
I had my first panic attack.
I couldn’t move from the couch and I couldn’t hear myself think because of that damn loud rock tumbler.
Finally, I broke my paralysis and jumped off the couch, and pulled the plug from the rock tumbler. I slapped the off/on button on the TV. As the garage plunged into complete darkness, I ran for the door to the den and slammed it behind me. I ran up the stairs to the second floor to the safety of my room and closed myself inside. I changed into my PJs as my breathing slowed and I threw myself into my bottom bunk and got under the covers. It took me a while before sleep found me.
The next day, I went back out to the garage, boxed up the rock tumbler, and put it on a shelf. I never used it again. One day I noticed it was gone. I’m sure my dad threw it out and I thought good riddance.

It wasn’t the rock tumbler’s fault. It was doing what it was built to do. But I blamed it regardless.
I have no idea why I had a panic attack.
Maybe it was the thought of going back to school on Monday. Maybe I was having a hard time with grades during that time.
Maybe I felt alone.
Maybe the pressure of wanting to make cool jewelry and not making my parents upset with me was part of the factor.
Maybe the cold of the garage.
Maybe the darkness that lurked outside.
Maybe all of it.
I don’t know.
I do know that had been my first one.
There would be others.

Since then, the darkness had become a friend. I prefer a dark room to one that is too bright.
And I like the cold. I sleep better in the winter with a fan on. As long as I have my weighted blanket, I could sleep all night and all day.
As for loud noises, not so much.
But all three at the same time…?
It’s overwhelming. My senses can’t take it.

I have a place where I feel safe. I’m married to someone who makes me feel safe.
It was things I wished for when I was young.

But panic attacks still happen from time to time.
That darkness still looms past the window on those cold dark nights.

-Loyd Elmore Jr
July 8th, 2022

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.

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