I had the whole thing puzzled out by then, being as the prayer book was of no use to me. I'd figured out that my uncle knew that my mother had paid some guy in another synagogue to say Kaddish for the year. I figured that her act then absolved me of this obligation. So, saying seated, I knew I was doing what I supposed to do, and that I wasn't going to appear once again to be the idiot in the room!
Out of the corner of my eye I saw my uncle motioning to me. “Get up,” he whispered urgently. “Up. Now!” he said through his teeth. It was nearly the end of the service. And I finally got it. This was where you were supposed to say the Mourner’s Kaddish. Ahh. Needless to say, I was completely confused; perplexed, even.
Spending most of the service in a state of unending anxiety trying not to look completely ignorant in front of my sister’s family to be (and she was more clueless than I was, trust me), I failed to connect what we were doing with anything remotely spiritual. And so it went. Synagogue services were a two-hour bore (unless the sermon happened to be unusually compelling), and I spent most of my time trying futility to keep up with the rapid Hebrew (and standing up at the right time). This was hardly the foundation for anything remotely spiritual.
This became a chronic problem when, after getting married, my husband wanted to join a Conservative synagogue. I was all for doing whatever he wanted to do; it certainly didn’t matter to me which synagogue we didn’t attend (except for the requisite High Holy Days and other special occasions). Except, there was a problem. He wanted to go. Like, often. As in every week (and on every holiday). OY!
By then (it was a year after my sister's wedding) I’d figured out the Hebrew alphabet, more out of self-defense than anything else, and thought I knew my way around the curves and angles of the aleph-bet (that’s what we in the Jewish ed biz call the Hebrew alphabet).