As kids we would be dragged off to church every so often with one or another of the relatives who were scattered across small towns and cities in Ontario. Different kinds of churches, different denominations, but no matter what time of year, or where we were, the sermon was always the same: The Prodigal Son. And no matter the situation, I always fainted.
They used to cart me downstairs to the Sunday school with the smaller kids, a blessed punishment it felt like. Eventually, they stopped taking me in to the churches at all and sent me straight on down. Even well into my teens and at the odd wedding, I dropped out one way or another; on my own two feet or unconscious.
We grew up in Alma, Ontario, rural town of two churches, two gas stations, a pie shop and a post office. Oh, and the school. Just about anything that went on was held at one of the churches so as you can imagine, with all the fainting going on it wasn’t long before I convinced myself that I was evil and ought not to be in church. As my teenage years went on I took a different view and decided church services were just too dull to hold anyone’s attention and figured it was a miracle the whole congregation didn’t faint.
But I never forgot the one and only story I ever heard and sometimes wondered if somebody was trying to tell me something. Was I doomed to be the prodigal son? The jealous sibling? The joyful parent? At different times I have felt like each of them. Perhaps we all do.
Staying away from churches didn’t really help with the passing out thing. Eventually the blood clinics told me to stop coming and many a comic episode involved first aid, first on the person who needed it and then on me. Late one night in a Montreal hospital, the doctor drafted me to help him as he sewed up my friend’s eyebrow. After being as helpful as possible, I tried to make my way to the bathroom to throw up in peace, plagued by visions of the threads getting stuck on their way out of said eyebrow. I found the washroom all right; it helped that the wall of the hall was on its side and I could sort of crawl there. Once there, however, I couldn’t quite reach the light switch. A doctor, presumably, came along and said, “Hey! What are you doing here?” and I suppose I said something like “blahbluh blbbb”. Next thing you know I’m on a stretcher in the hallway, suction cup thingies all over, some things going into me, other things going out of me. I came-to in time to see my friend and the doctor come out of the room we’d been in, “what happened!?” they gasped. I passed out again.
The weekend we moved into our Hamilton house, I passed out just because a doctor looked at my finger. A broken glass had acted like a melon-baller and scooped out the nub of it from bone to finger nail. I was fine (or conscious at least) until the doctor set eyes on it. I woke up on the floor. Unfazed, the doctor called it vasovagal syncope which sounded romantic in that old fashioned ‘consumption’ kind of way, but Wikipedia assures me it just means ‘faints easily’.
So now, armed with the knowledge that I am not devil-spawn and that the fainting doesn’t have anything to do with churches at all, though I may have a trinity of prodigal, jealous and joyful in me, I wear a t-shirt with this warning:
“Faints easily – nothing’s actually wrong.”