KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 5: Spring 2016
Memoir: 484 words

Democratic Vistas: Two Military Funerals

by Skip Eisiminger

Olive-Drab Rites for a Civilian Mother: 2008

In spite of a five-week backlog, the military granted the colonel’s request that his wife be buried at Arlington National Cemetery if he would keep her refrigerated for the duration at his expense, transport her to Washington also at his expense, and occupy the “superior” vault when the time came, for, as he was told, the nation’s capital is running out of hallowed ground. While often unseen, rank does have its privileges.

Admittedly, Mother never wore the uniform, but she had been wounded by a nervous breakdown in WWII, a miscarriage in Korea, and thyroid cancer in Viet Nam, but no Purple Hearts were bestowed. Except for a hole in Robert E. Lee’s former lawn, she received no veteran’s compensation, and when she died, there was no band, no horse-drawn wagon, and no “Taps” or rifles’ rude salute. In place of these rites, seven starched soldiers emerged from the budget bus and carried Mother from the hearse to her grave. They carried her fifty feet across the sanctified plain, placed her down, and marched back to the bus. We never had a chance to thank them.

After a brief service—Bible verses, a poem of mine, and a prayer by my reverend sister—hydraulics lowered the casket toward a pre-existing concrete vault as I cast sidelong glances while folding a spray of white roses inside our son’s trunk.

As Mother came to rest, two dungareed civilians, who’d been waiting in the wings, shook and folded the Astroturf mats while a third used the front-end loader to fill the grave, one of twenty-five dug before the sun had come up. A white stone with black lettering would be ready in five to seven days.

Following a late lunch and nap, the family and I walked a linen labyrinth at the National Cathedral as lightning illuminated the interior and the sexton dropped his wet ropes when they began to tingle, for lightning treats sextons and saints the same.

Arlington Democracy: 2013

Across the Potomac from the Watergate, neither the lone bugler, nor seven rifles firing as one, nor a brass band could muffle the casket as it rolled, ungreased, brass on steel, on and off the wood-wheeled wagon. Like the riderless black horse whickering among seven whites, death has a voice that will not be silenced.

As the honor guard sidled onto the Astroturf platform laid over the grave mouth, the yellow clay on their soles glistened in the sun. When they’d finished folding the flag, all our grief was wrapped up tight as a dollop of strawberry preserves in a blue, star-studded turnover.

As “Taps” played, a front-end loader labored toward a distant hole, hollow as the capital’s marble monuments in late January. Following the ancient rites of rank, the colonel was laid “superior” to his wife between a corporal and a captain.

Skip Eisiminger
Issue 5, Spring 2016

is the son of Dorothy and Sterling Eisiminger. In 1959, he graduated from Mt. Vernon High School (his tenth school in twelve years). In 1963 while serving three and a half years in the Army Security Agency, he married Ingrid Barmwater of Helmstedt, West Germany. With her committed assistance, he graduated from Auburn University in 1967 (BS) and 1968 (MA). The same year, he settled his family in Clemson, South Carolina after taking a job teaching English and interdisciplinary humanities at Clemson University. After his son Shane was born in 1964 and his daughter Anja in 1969, he returned to graduate school in 1970. In 1974, he graduated from the University of South Carolina with a PhD in English after which he returned to Clemson. His only move after his return was across town.

Over forty-two years in academe, he published a book of verse, a book of word games, a children’s book, and two collections of essays. In forty-two years as a teacher at Clemson, he taught over nine thousand students in twenty-nine different courses.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Nano Lit: Concision, 1220-word essay in Weekly Hubris (22 November 2014); includes an entertaining, must-read list of 32 “flash genres” contrived by Eisiminger, with a sample of each

Letters to the Grandchildren, Eisiminger’s collection of essays (Clemson University Press, 2014)

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