May 1969 :on a highway, somewhere this side of a life unlived
I didn't know I was in trouble.
Now, years later, I suddenly do see it.
We're not talking drugs. I never did drugs. Any. Ever.
Nothing is worse than stone cold sober.
What I did was more destructive: I had mainlined on GOD.
A weird brand of God: Jehovah God.
I was shredded and unaware. If you'd asked me (the day I climbed into the car and stepped hard on the pedal) how I was doing...?
I guess I'd have said, "Great."
I really thought so. And didn't think so. Both at the same time.
Furious anger boiled inside. Unknown. How is THAT possible?
It was mid-afternoon. A hard rain had come to stay. The freeway glistened slick and sloshy as cars whooshed and slushed along, tires hissing off a hot Texas highway.
My speedometer bragged up to a boastful 140. Somehow, I got it into my head..."Let's just see..."
What was going on inside my thoughts? Was I feeling bad?
Nah. I wasn't feeling anything.
I stomped down and pushed my leg straight into a winding roar of horsepower and sheer determination.
The previous owner of the ugly Plymouth Fury (fury=anger)
said it was a 383 cubic-inch eight-cylinder engine. I didn't know what the hell he was talking about. No Daddy--no car savvy.
It takes years to learn.
Now I do know. Zero to sixty in seven and half seconds! That's what an engine that size really means.
I was fresh out of Federal Prison. A Jehovah's Witness.
22 years old. Mind splintered from two years of hard education inside. Totally clueless why I was in a Fury with a fury inside of me.
The highway blazed by in a long stretch of damp, blurry accelerated images flickering and flashing in my peripheral vision.
Pure... Exhilaration! That's what was going on--I was trying to get some feeling back and it was starting to happen. Yeah. I could FEEL IT HAPPENING.
Being numb kept me alive those two years behind bars. It was survival mode. Hunker down. Pray. Fold up your feelings and keep moving.
Like jumping into river rapids...carried along in the white water. Dangerous.
Too dangerous to fight my way out.
Hanging on for dear life, hope was a raft...only a possibility.
Toward a mystery date of release.
A solemn and mysterious secret held by a Parole Board.
Twice per year, I performed an "audition" for unsmiling assholes.
I flunked 3 times. Smartass. Couldn't keep my damn mouth shut.
I sunk into warp drive and felt my body push back against the seat
(no seat belts back then) and then my heart began pounding like rock n' roll.
Fast. Faster. Fastest? There was no "fastest"--that magnificent motor kept winding and purring like a giant turbine at Niagra Falls--exploding with preposterous energy...enough to light a metroplex.
I didn't know three things all at the same moment.
I swear to you: I thought I was okay.
I didn't know I was in trouble. Like I said at the start.
Now I know.
I woke up at 2 a.m. this morning with my heart pounding...remembering that drive...that plunge into the abyss.
I can see the image inside my brain: incredible speed gathering under me, gliding on slick asphalt, passing dozens of cars on the left and right.
Woosh. Woosh. Woosh!
I wasn't married. Still a virgin. I hadn't begun to live life. But I couldn't see a tomorrow I wanted to own.
I felt trapped--WAS TRAPPED inside a cult---not even knowing it was a cult.
Something snapped--like waking up to the sound of thunder inside a nightmare. I pulled my foot up. The speedometer was screaming "135" on that stretch of the glistening void between life and death. Straightaway I awoke to white-hot consciousness in a Plymouth Fury on my way to a funeral of my own reckoning.
The speed shifted downward like a musical dimenuendo...flowing like honey on toast..creeping away from madness toward hope and possibility on the other side of the storm. 130...120...100...70...
My body convulsed sharply at a stab of consciousness of what I had done!
I suddenly pulled to the shoulder of the road and braked hard.
Heart pounding in my chest. Mad thoughts --a spooked flock of birds frightened from a lake by the sound of gunfire.
I awoke sitting up this morning on my bed...49 years afterward. It was anger at myself. That's what. I had done myself in before I ever sat down inside that car on a rainy afternoon. I had chosen it all--everything--so utterly stupid, naive, trusting and blind.
I could see the faces of my children and grandchildren smiling at me.
"If you had died--we would never have lived."
There's plenty of life left for a 22-year-old.
It was my business now to see for myself how I could possibly make it. Back to normal.
It would be another 5 years of struggling inside a cult before a glimmer of "wake up" began to form. Slow. Slowly. One foot in front of the other.
Instead of a dead JW on a highway, somewhere this side of a life unlived.
“My God--what have I done?”
Glad you took snapshots, Terry. Good one!
Sir I have been gone for a long time from this forum, but you are a treasure, the pictures you paint and the way you tell your story always makes me feel like I'm not alone in way I feel,
Thank you Terry take care
Thank you my friend for such a poignant account of your life experiences. I am from Canada and we never had to go to jail for refusing military service but I met several young brothers at the 1969 international convention in Montreal that were in that predicament. I remember having this feeling of helplessness in the pit of my stomach thinking that one day all JWs would have to face persecution and prison. That was almost 50 years ago...decades of living in fear and uncertainty, the real prison being the cult! I started escaping 10 years ago but I still feel the effects of living in captivity. Today I try to make up for lost time by living my life the way you drove that Plymouth Fury!
This crap never goes away... memories.
Almost every scrap of the Old Light (which was our only light at the time) has become buried and covered over like a cat's bowel droppings. And for THAT stink we were so willing to die? What sort of idiot was I?
I think the term is: "useful idiot."
Well, useful to THEM no longer, for sure. I've done my very best to be rabid dog bite on their sorry butts.
It took me 40 years to get around to writing my prison story in my first book:
I Wept by the Rivers of Babylon (A Prisoner of Conscience in a Time of War".
I just didn't want to feel any of those old feelings until then.
But...come back they do. Every...once...and awhile.
So you stomped it in an underpowered car. How brave. Really great. You Boomers act like you're the only generation that's ever lived. Nobody cares other than that it will have to all be paid for by the rest of us. You people screwed the pooch but we get the bills.
Thank you for that insight terry about being imprisoned for being a conscientious objector on religious grounds.
I have always wondered how one would feel nowadays knowing the TTATT having undergone such an experience .
You spent 2 years incarcerated for your beliefs, and not to make light of your experience I remember in the 60`s or 70`s about Greek brothers who were sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and if they didn`t recant at the end of those 5 years were subject to another 5 years and so on .
Greece apparently had a very hard line against conscientious objectors to military service.
At the time I believe their was at least one brother who had undergone 15 years imprisonment because of his conscientious beliefs against serving in the military
I can`t imagine how he would feel if he came to a knowledge of TTATT .Though I can imagine such ones because of what they have gone through clinging on to the false hope the GB holds out to them .
I personally was fortunate that I escaped National Service at the time because about a year previous to my conversion I was not called up because of the birthdate ballot that applied at the time.
Though in Australia they were a lot more tolerant I think of conscientious objectors on religious grounds from memory.
Good post terry.
Newbies and lurkers need to know what you guys went through all those years ago for the bloody "truth"
The Legend of King Sisyphus comes to mind.
As a devout Jehovah's Witness, each of us is given various large stones to roll up
a mountain incline to the top. Just when we're ready to be declared faithful...
oops! Down it rolls.
When I walked back into my home Congregation--the Kingdom Hall with all my erstwhile Bros. and Sis's (whom I had not heard a word from), I confess I thought
I would be greeted with rejoicing.
What a letdown!
The Watchtower religion all comes down to this:
"What have you done for me lately?"
"I have been in prison from 1967 to 1969 to please Jehovah."
"Well, that's what you're supposed to do."
No welcome home--just on to the next stone to roll up the next mountain.
My Congregation Overseer (no Elders back then) saw me and darted into the library and came back out with a sign-up form for Pioneer work.
There was No "Hello, Brother Walstrom? How are you feeling?
All I got from him was, "You'll want to sign up for Regular Pioneer work. My son Gary needs somebody to go with him out in the fieldwork."
Why oh why didn't I say to him: "Sir--you can kiss my ass!" ???