Sooo, today I had a lot of laundry that needed to be done. Kind of all of it, actually. Including underwear. So, okay, no biggie, I go without for a day.
I had both the 4pm and 5:30pm Masses to cantor, and I have to wear a dress to cantor because the music director hath ordered it so. Fine. I wore a black high-low hemmed shift dress.
After the first Mass, I go downstairs to use the bathroom, and suddenly realize — guess what has shown up! Early!
I go back upstairs, figuring I’ll just grab my purse and use one of the supplies I have in it. But when I open the door from the stairs to the sacristy, there’s Monsignor Armington, who’s supposed to be saying the 5:30 Mass, and he’s sitting on a bench with Father Jago (Filipino. And awesome.) standing over him going, “Oh my God. Oh my God. You are bleeding!”
I don’t know a whole lot about Msgr. Armington. He’s not a resident priest — he says Masses for us once in a while, but definitely not every week. Sometimes he’s a little unsteady. In fact, we had railings installed on the steps from the altar to the lower envelope because he’s come so close to falling so many times, and our pastor is getting up there in years, too. And now the monsignor is sitting on this bench looking a little… off.
I’m always taken aback a little when I hear a priest use the Lord’s name in vain the way Father Jago just did. But once I get past that, I realize the monsignor has fallen outside and whacked the back of his head on the concrete. The other things I know about Msgr. Armington are that he has heart disease and that he had a minor stroke a few months ago, so now I figure he’s on blood thinners. And he fell and hit his head. I happen to have my cell phone in my hand (because yeah, I was checking it while I was in the bathroom downstairs), so when someone confirms that the monsignor has fallen, I call 911.
Something like 17 questions later, I finally get to tell the dispatcher what happened (can I just tell you that third? First the address, then that I need an ambulance, and then “Hey, this old priest with a history of problematic health just fell down and smacked his head on the ground.” Because that would be faster, and the battery on my phone is pretty low.) I get off the phone and tell everyone that the ambulance is on its way, and then I start talking to Msgr. Armington again because Father Jago is being exactly no help.
Memo to the parish: Father Jago is not the go-to guy in an emergency. He freaks out.
So I ask Msgr. Armington whether he’s feeling dizzy, is he nauseous, what medications he’s on, etc. He pulls a teensy weensy vial out of the inside pocket of his suit jacket and tells me he has “this,” but he can’t think of the name of it right now, and somehow I remember that nitroglycerin is tiny, so I say that word, and he says, “Yes. For my heart.” And he says he’s on Plavix, which, of course, is the blood thinner.
He says he’s not going to the hospital.
“Oh, you have to!” says Father Jago. “You have to! You hit your head! You are bleeding! You could have a bleed inside your head and in 30 minutes—” he whacks at the air with a hand — “you go down!”
Monsignor looks kind of terrified.
Awesome job, Father Jago.
“Well, that probably won’t happen,” I try to say without directly contradicting Father Jago, “But you do have to go. Given your history and the medication you’re on, they’re going to want to check you out.”
The monsignor nods, wide-eyed thanks to Father Jago. We talk a little about exactly how he fell (he lost his balance coming up the three steps to the door, grabbed for the railing and couldn’t get it in time), and I go outside to meet the paramedics.
It’s raining, by the way. Big fat drops plopping on my head and penetrating my dress.
So I give the medics the low-down on the way back into the sacristy, you know, age, heart disease, stroke, he’s on this medication and that medication, this is what happened, this is how he’s acting now, etc., etc. And we get back into the sacristy and like four people (including Father Jago) are asking me whether I’m a nurse while the medics are assessing the monsignor and getting him onto the gurney (he’s pretty shaky when they get him off the bench).
“No, I’m not a nurse,” I kind of laugh. I feel blessed once again in my life that I’m pretty good in emergencies.
“What are you?” Father Jago wants to know.
What AM I? I wonder to myself, because I still haven’t figured out how to answer that in my new job.
“I’m a writer,” I say.
“A writer!” he says.
“Well, I do marketing and PR.”
“Can you write me a song?” Father Jago wants to know. Father Jago likes to sing.
I officially no longer understand what’s happening.
“I can’t write music,” I tell him. “But I can write you lyrics.”
“Write me lyrics!” he says. “I’ll figure out the rest.”
Yep. No idea what’s going on.
The medics have to take the monsignor out through the sanctuary because they can’t maneuver the railing the way they came in while they have him on the gurney, and I’m thinking about what I’m going to say at the introduction of the Mass to tell everyone not to completely freak out about seeing Msgr. Armington getting wheeled through the sanctuary whilst bleeding on the sheet.
You would think that the bleeding would have been some sort of signal to me. But no. They get the monsignor out, It’s 5:20, I go back into the church and down into the organ pit to talk to the accompanist because she’s filling in and has never been here before and needs to back waaaayyyy off the organ volume for this Mass as compared to the 4pm, and then we’re about 15 minutes into the 5:30 Mass when I suddenly realize: Shit. I never grabbed my purse.
And I am still not wearing underwear.
At the presentation of the gifts, while the substitute accompanist is playing a hymn more quietly on the organ, I slip back into the sacristy and back down to the bathroom for a quick clean-up. So far, so good. But I can’t exactly clench tissue without undies standing in front of literally God and everybody, so I just have to hope (pray?) this Mass gets done before I get hit with a sudden and uncontrollable uptick in the situation.
Five minutes later: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it,” Father Jago is singing at the altar (I’ve never known another priest to sing this part). “This is the cup of my blood…”
I’m kneeling on the envelope with my dress tucked around me. Ummmmm, don’t say “blood.”
I stand up to do the memorial acclamation, the Amen, the Lamb of God… and the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist I’m thinking, There is no time between now and the end of the Mass during which I can get away.
Also, I cannot subtly stuff my black dress into a potentially helpful position because this infernal dress-like trunk-junk-holding sheath I’m wearing under my actual dress is in the way.
And because that would be super-obvious, since you can’t just stick your hand between your thighs while standing in front of the congregation.
Oh God, our help in ages past…
“The Mass has ended. Go in peace.”
THANKS BE TO GOD.
After trying to graciously and unhurriedly thank the substitute accompanist (who is a professor of piano performance at the college where I work, though I hadn’t met her before), I’m heading out the door when Father Jago stops me. “I have a question!”
Holy Mary, Mother of God…
“Do you have an allergy to gnats?”
“The bugs?” I ask, pinching my fingers together in the universal sign for tiny bug. “No. I am not allergic to gnats.” Is anybody allergic to gnats? Why is he asking me this?
“No no— N-U-T-S. Nats.”
“Ohhhhhhh. No. I’m not allergic to nuts,” I say, thinking that this is exactly how Javier says “nuts” and wondering why I couldn’t understand it from Father Jago, even though they don’t speak the same language.
“Okay. Give me—” Father Jago looks around at the altar servers, the sacristan, the guy putting the collection money in the safe. “Give me wan minute.”
“Sure.” I sit on the bench where Monsignor Armington had been and intuitively monitor my vag. Which isn’t awkward at all in a church while waiting for a priest to return from the rectory he’s just rushed out to.
A couple of minutes later, he comes back and hands me a gift bag, folded closed. “From da Philippines,” he tells me. “Check it out.”
Also mango tarts.
And, by the time I get to address the situation, no stains on my dress.
Thanks be to God.