A black rain slicker slid off the bench toward my feet. The thick waterproof covering whooshed as it tumbled over the other coats in the pile. I picked it up. Was this what I was looking for? I stood at the edge of my mind as the fog rolled in. For a moment I lost my bearing and feared I might be swallowed up completely, but then, almost as quickly as it came, it cleared and I remembered. No, this wasn't it.
I thrust the coat into my granddaughter's arms and continued to rummage through the pile. I neither saw the teenager's look of bemusement nor caught her questioning gaze, but I heard some puzzlement in her voice as she asked, “Grandma, what are you doing?”
It was clear to me what I was doing. Searching for a coat. I looked down at my ruffled blouse and pressed slacks. I could still smell the perfume and knew I'd combed my hair this morning Yes, I remembered very clearly why I was looking for my coat. “I'm going to church.”
The bemusement turned to seriousness as the girl set the coat among the others. “Grandma, today is Thursday. There is no church today.”
My hands trembled. I licked the salty drips of perspiration off my lips and furrowed my brows. I was so sure it was Sunday.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yes, Grandma,” she said patiently, “Check the calender.”
I willed my legs to the large dining room calender. It was set low and scribbled with red and blue ink. Numbers swirled before me. I blinked. What day was it? I tried to ignore the mocking ticks of the clock above me. I willed my mind to work. Then it came. Today was March 2. I placed a wrinkled finger on the day and traced it up to the day of the week. Thursday.
My knees creaked as I stood. My back was stiff and I missed my youth. I found my coat and zipped it.
“Grandma, where are you going?”
The words hit me like a slap on the wrist. “I'm just going outside. If that's all right with you.”
Her smile faded. “Just so long as you remember there's no church today.”
I breathed the rich aroma of damp earth. It invigorated me and calmed me all at the same time. I reached down to pluck a bright yellow buttercup when the drone of an engine caught my attention. I watched as a blue sedan slowed and turned into the driveway for the convent across the street. Immediately, I knew where it was headed. To church!
I puffed slightly as I trekked across the parking lot. It was convenient to live across the street from the Sisters of the Holy Names, especially on Sunday. It meant I could leave five minutes before church and still make it on time.
The heavy door creaked as I opened it and for a moment I stopped, afraid to disrupt the worshipers. I pulled it outright and was greeted by an empty sanctuary. I paused for a moment then continued in. Good, I thought, I'm early!
My feet pattered softly across the carpet. Besides my breathing, all else was silent. I tucked myself into the closest pew and picked a prayer book. Reverently, I began to read.
A few minutes later I heard footsteps beside me. A sweet nun with a radiant smile greeted me by name.
“Dot!” She put a warm hand on my shoulder. “What are you doing here?”
“Waiting for service.” I answered.
“Service? Oh Dot, it's only Thursday!”
Hot tears stung my eyes as shame burned my cheeks. I didn't understand! I felt as though someone had told me the sun was the moon and though I felt so surely it was the other way around, I had no way to contradict them.
I went home as fast as my legs would take me, slamming the door sharply as I entered. The commotion elicited a quick glance from my ever-alert granddaughter. Her eyes asked if I was okay. I tried to avoid her, too embarrassed to speak, but the emotions were too hard to contain and words effervesced from a wounded soul.
By the end of the tale I smiled. I could almost laugh at myself sitting there waiting for a Mass that wouldn't start. But I really would have liked one thing, for someone to have told me it was Thursday!
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