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My father died in 1951. I was six years old. We buried him in the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in February of 2007. Freud said that no one could be a man until his father had died. Jung said “yes, but that death could take place symbolically,” but that is another story.

A year or two later I told my first lie. To be clear, it was early in 1953. There was a quart bottle of root beer in the refrigerator. Someone had pried off the lid, drank a bit, then put the lid back on thinking no one would notice. There were three suspects. The other two were my sisters. One was three years older than me and one four years younger. Linda was barely four so she seemed an unlikely suspect. This was long before we had twist off soda bottles. Popping the top off one of those hard metal caps without bending it was not a trivial task. Putting that top back on was even more difficult. It took a sharp hit at just the right angle and even then, the bottle had to be placed on a stable surface so the blow was not dissipated by movement away from the fulcrum of force.

Doubtfully, I failed to consider all of these parameters at the time. Yet even at seven, it was fairly obvious to me that among the suspects Linda was not a prime choice. I had one other bit of information that may not have been obvious to everyone in the room. I knew that I had not done it. To me it seemed likely that the situation left only me and Sharron as the actual suspects. Yet mom was speaking to all of us as if Linda was included. As the lecture continued into the third or forth iteration, mom agreed to not spank us if only one of us would actually confess to the crime.

With the usual fatal turn, the lecture would eventually give way to a more threatening stance; the introduction of a possibility for corporal punishment. At length, Linda would be lead into the next room. All attempts toward reconciliation would have been exhausted. As I watched us working toward this moment I suddenly solved the entire mystery.

This was because I recognized a pattern. I realized that this was not an isolated experience. I had been here before. We were reentering an infinite loop. To a seven year old it does not really take that many iterations to make a loop appear infinite, but you get the idea. In short, this was a repeating drama that was occurring over and over. I knew end from the beginning. What was going to happen next was that Linda would be punished first. It would be something of a token spanking. I could always tell because her crying was not very sincere. Certainly not the sort of frantic sounds one would expect to be emitted upon the administration of actual pain. Next I would be lead into the next room and receive my punishment.

Finally, Sharron would be taken into the next room. She would struggle mightily so spanking her was not an easy task. For several eternal minutes I would hear her pulling away from mom in several directions but she would be prevented from escape being held prisoner by a single wrist. The struggle would be accompanied by a continual pleading for mercy. At length, Sharron would run out of energy and realize her doom was assured. She could not resist forever.

At this point destiny took control and fate appeared to be inevitable. But then the strategy would change. Now came confession and repentance. Sorrow and remorse became central. The struggle somehow changed from physical to verbal. In the midst of all the anguish another argument would eventually emerge. Crying and confession turned at last from total sorrow.

Eventually a spark of hope would be introduced. Sharron would remind mom that mercy had been offered if only confession was made. If only the guilty party would admit to the error. To me this argument did not seem convincing. At least not under these circumstances. Yet I could already hear in my minds eye, or perhaps in my minds ear, Sharron’s soft weak claim that she had indeed confessed, followed by a now a pleading voice, “you said you would not spank me if I confessed.” I already knew to expect an eventual pensive admission, “well, yes. I did say that.” This would be followed by a litany of remorse interspersed with repeated admission of guilt, and promises of a better world. Eventually, each of us had to be true our word. Honesty was highly revered in our home. The promise of non-punishment in exchange for confession would take on the cloak of the inevitable.

But this time was different. This time I recognized the pattern. I realized what was happening. I was like god. I knew the end from the beginning. I was not that concerned with the immediate situation. It was the pattern that bothered me. I could take my licks and life would go on. What bothered me was that my mother was my hero. She was my god. She was smarter than me, and much more experienced. My solution to the problem was very simple. Just reverse the order of punishment. Why must we work toward a double spanking, one of which was a token, and finally end with a confession? It seemed to me that everyone in the room should realize that this simple change would simplify this painful process and avoid the usual results. Well, maybe Linda didn’t realize at that moment.

In the absence of enough courage to suggest my punishment reversal solution, I settled instead on telling a lie. I confessed to a crime I had not committed. I said I had done it. Time stood still as I realized the pattern had been broken. I had no further plan. I did not know what to expect. No one had ever done this before. I could only wait and observe as I entered a new phase of life. Looking back I now realize my mother was left with few reasonable options, and other than this pattern, whatever it represents, she was typically quite reasonable. It was like entering another dimension as I waited to see the outcome of my breaking out of the pattern. I was in a new and unpredictable world. To my surprise my confession was accepted and life was allowed to return to normal. The emergency had been resolved. The ugly pattern was resolved. At least for that day.

Yet, I did not bury my mother symbolically on that day. It would be another sixteen years before I would even attempt to do so. In retrospect I have no regrets about that sixteen years. It was the right thing to do. For sixteen years I avoided another lie. For sixteen years I tried to be a perfect son. For sixteen years I tried to be the father my sisters needed. At seven years old my mother was my god. She was my life line. That meant that for sixteen years someone had to replace my god. I tried to become that someone. Thankfully my sisters accepted my efforts. They made it worthwhile. So this about covers my existence for the first twenty three years or so. In a way, for all my years. Next year I will be seventy seven, but in important ways I am still one eleventh of that. At seven I became a man, at least for the next sixteen years.

The problem now seems to be the difficulty in finding another cause; another reason to be so noble. Only one of my sisters is still alive and she seems to be doing fine. My life program is one of resolving emergencies by the recognition of pattern. In the absence of stress I am like an emergency vehicle between emergencies. Not really that useful. I just sit and ponder, read and think, but it is hard to get myself going unless there is some real stress; unless someone needs me the way my mother and sisters did. If I had been able to figure out how to interact with my mother to avoid that first lie I may have written a different program for myself. I might be able to reach out rather than withdraw. I might be social instead of introverted. I might be a better person. Instead I am left trying to figure out a few more subroutines that might make my world a better place to live while I wait for the next emergency. So I think I will go take a nap now.

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