What are you gonna do?

I’m not usually in a mood. Well, maybe once a month when my husband predictably asks, “Are you mad at me or something?” Other than that I am generally an even-keeled person. My highs aren’t too high, my lows dip slightly below the graph line. Boring, some people might say. That’s okay with me. I take no meds and have outstanding blood pressure—the benefits of a drama-free life.

Today I am in a mood.

It started last night when it felt like a rhinoceros was standing on my head. (I don’t usually get headaches either.) This morning it felt like the weight of the world was on my head.

Why now?

Is it the change in seasons? The images of Syrian refugees? News of another road rage shooting? The lukewarm review some random stranger gave my recent book project? My mother’s health? My daughter’s high school angst? All of the above?

Maybe that’s it. Maybe some days it’s just too much—even for the even-keeled.

Mood or not, I had to go to work. There I got on the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park’s shuttle bus and said hello to my bus driver and friend, Liz.

“How are you today?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said with a frown. “I’m in a strange Wednesday funk.”

I love it when friends don’t lie and say, “I’m fine.” Though sympathetic to Liz’s mood, I was happy to know that maybe it wasn’t just me. We went on to discuss this shared, uncommon mood we were both in, how we both wanted to crawl under a rock and hide from the world. Park visitors got on and off the bus and she asked me to hang back before exiting myself. When we were alone, Liz asked, “Are you going to see the pope?”

What a random, strange question, I thought. But I smiled.

“No. But I love the pope.”

Our conversation took me right back to the day in 2013 when I was at a conference in Portland and got my husband’s text: The new pope chose the name Francis! After your dad!

My dad had just been put under hospice care and my family entered It Won’t Be Long Now world. Indeed, Dad’s name was Francis, named after St. Francis of Assisi—the same inspiration for the new pope. However, my dad hated to be called Francis, so to me he was Pope Frank.

Liz and I talked a bit about Pope Frank, how he seems like such a regular, humble, even-keeled guy—much like my father. Dad didn’t have very high highs or low lows either. Sure, he griped and complained at times, but then he always sighed, said, “What are you gonna do?” and went on his way with a whistle. He helped everyone and treated everyone equally. His funeral was attended by many “regular” people—waitresses, diner owners, proprietors of tire shops, lawnmower repairmen. They all said the same thing: “Frank was a great guy.”

Today I hear his voice clearly: “What are you gonna do?”

What are we going to do? When it’s just too much? When the refugees won’t stop coming? When the violence has no end? When we have to sometimes stand aside and let our children find their own way?

Well, like Pope Francis, we can pray. Pray as hard as we can. Like Liz and I, we can just be there for each other. Have a simple chat. Smile. Remind each other that we’re all in this together and it’s going to be okay.

And then go on our way with a whistle.

dory just keep swimming

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