Thursday, August 2, 2012

Packing Bags for Another Person

Last night I took three of the kids out for dinner.  While we were gone, we got a message asking us to get some of our son's clothes packed up.  We decided to pack everything.  Three black trash bags, a backpack and a lot of clothes on hangers wait by the door for someone to come and pick them up.

While we packed I did three loads of laundry to be sure everything was out of the laundry room.  As we cleaned out the drawers, one of my daughters found cell phone chargers and other things she was missing during the past few months.  We thought stealing was a bigger problem before the violence.  Now it seems very small by comparison.

It is always sad to pack for someone else.  In Germany in the 70s I helped to pack up the gear and personal effects of a soldier who went home in a hospital plane.  We were starting an M60A1 tank with slave cables (REALLY heavy duty jumper cables).  To slave start a tank, you either pull the tanks close side by side or nose to nose.  The slave cables drop into the drivers hatch in the hull and plug into a connector just below the hatch.

The second tank approached the first straight on from a slight.  The young soldier--I'll call him Ed--was up on the hull of the dead tank next to the driver's hatch.  As the second tank approached he dropped the cable--and decided to pick it.  He jumped off the side of the tank out of the way, but then went between the tanks to retrieve the cable rather than just pulling it up.  He did not know why.  No one else did.  In a confusing moment he stood up and got caught between the tanks.

His pelvis was broken.  He screamed.

A week later, several of us packed his things.

I thought of Ed when I was packing last night.

My wife and I insist our kids pack their own bags for trips--especially the trip home.  I just thought it was a good skill for them to have.  It was pretty clear last night I do not have good memories of packing for someone else.

The Philosopher of War and Terror and Politics: Hannah Arendt

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