Friday, April 14, 2006

Back, and working

Well, I'm back. Sorry about the lack of posting -- I'm sure you'll understand that I haven't felt much like it lately.

I did make it to my granddad's funeral in Michigan. Evidently, my family sent that previous post around, and printed off a copy for my widowed grandmother. She liked it enough to ask that I read it at the funeral. I read it at the grave site, even though I hadn't written it with that in mind. All the Scots in my family (and there are many) laughed pretty hard at the Gaelic phrase, despite the solemnity of the occasion.

I had been worried that Granddad's immediate family wouldn't like something of that nature at a funeral, but by all accounts it went over well, which was a relief.

And it was great to see everyone again. It's been six years, at least, since I've been up to Taylor, and all my cousins and second cousins and cousin's kids and aunts and uncles and piles of other relatives all needed to be caught up with.

The thing that really sucks is coming back. It's tough every time I leave my family behind and come back to this godforsaken place. My constantly shrinking company -- which has been whittled down to a core of administrative clerks and chaplains' assistants, and me -- now has at least as many mid-grade NCOs as it does soldiers, which means that those of us left are having the mortal shit managed out of us. I'd decided a while back that given my choice of careers, I wasn't much interested in making sergeant, but recently I thought better of it. In light of recent events -- notably a three-hour class on filling out NCO-ERs that started a full hour late thanks to a tardy staff sergeant -- I've reverted to my original opinion.

Last night I went to a Seder meal being held for Jewish IET soldiers. They were extremely excited to get the opportunity to celebrate Passover, but the sight of guys in ACUs, BCGs, and Yarmulkes was somewhat strange.

I snapped photos for a while. When the meal finally started, one of the soldiers seated near the head of the table volunteered to sing the traditional prayers. After the opening prayers in English, he began that mesmerizing chant of Hebrew.

I thought back to the funeral mass we'd had for my grandfather. Near the end, the priest reminded us of how incense is still used in ceremonies to remind us of how prayers are lifted up to God, and proceeded to make the sign of the cross over the coffin with the censer.

Rituals are really remarkable, and they got me wondering -- what's the important aspect of a ritual? Is it the form and substance of the ritual itself, or merely its effect on the state of mind of those in attendance? I suppose all rituals combine both.

At any rate, it's now Good Friday, so I'll sign off here. I'll be back this weekend sometime.