Get Off! (Italy #7)

The day following our rail strike adventure, we arrive at Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station 30 minutes before our rescheduled departure. 

We are learning. Find the departures board, check arrival time and any projected delays and, most importantly, identify the platform for the Trenitalia train to Venice. Anxiety greatly diminished.

Somewhere after Bologna, the conductor comes to check tickets. The screen on my smartphone shows the Trenitalia app and ticket. Ta-dah! How hard can this be?

Judging by his voice, the passenger behind me is a young man in his twenties.

The woman beside him provides the English translation of the conductor’s concerns.

“You are on the wrong train. Your ticket is for a regional train.

The conductor says you can pay the fare difference or get off at the next stop.”


“Do you have the money?”


Then you will have to get off the train.”


“He is being kind to you by giving you that option.”

The station at Ferrara comes into view. An older man and a young couple with backpacks leave our car.

A few minutes later, the conductor reappears.

“You will have to get off now. You cannot be on this train any longer.” 

Come with me.”

The young man gets up and follows the conductor down the aisle to the exit stairway.

At Padua, the conductor and the young man head into the station, probably to visit the office of the local police.

And I wonder.

If I am the conductor on the train of my life, who gets to ride on this next leg of the journey? How many spirits of the past will continue to occupy space? How many should be invited to leave at the next stop? Who should be invited on board?

I recognize this game as part of the larger one I have engaged in during the past few months. What needs to be left behind as I move into the next chapter of life? The question now becomes more people-specific.

I review those who shaped my understanding of the characteristics of a good minister, good husband, good father, good son, and good Christian. I want to say that any that left me feeling “not good enough” without providing explicit content were struck off the list. I am now too weary - or wise - to toil under the taskmaster of unclear expectations. Such merely scourge my soul.

This may be true for some, but the deeper relationships do not disembark quickly and probably never will. My mother and some mentors were clear in their expectations. I did not meet them. Sometimes I failed; other times, I chose to be another person.

As the train pulls into Venice, I smile at myself. Easy to make a list and pretend to strike out names, but some stain sits like a tattoo on the spirit - not so easy to remove. Those passengers I have to learn to ride with.

Photo by paolo candelo on Unsplash

How many spirits of the past continue to occupy space in your journey? Do you know their names?


  1. Thanks again Keith. Amazing how our minds go off on different tangents!
    I was thinking the opposite to you, in that I wondered who I could have/should have invited to journey with me. Maybe the age difference { another 10 more than you} puts me in a different frame of reference? I wondered whether I would have stepped forward to speak to that person who had to leave the train?
    Were there others , in need or not, who would have added to my journey and memories. As my world begins to shrink I am reminded of so many who moulded my thinking, or validated who I was. I am ever grateful for that.

      1. So very true Keith. And your position and choice of Profession meant that you were on the “train” with so many others, where you were the Giver. They, like me, will treasure that.
        Remember that as part of your journeying.

  2. I have moved many times in my life, and each time I do, I wonder at who I will keep as a friend or contact, and who will fall away. It isn’t always the ones I expect, and certainly most people who have moved often understand the dilemma. Each year around Christmas I ponder who to keep on my contact list – when did I last see or talk to them, when did they last reach out to me? Did I know them in their job capacity, or was it more personal. At some point, even if I really like them, if it’s not reciprocal, it’s not going to continue. Letting go of people I like is a hard part of moving on, second only to trying to find new friends.

  3. Oh, Keith. I am taking time on Family Day to review bits of your blog I failed to read. This one is soooo powerful, as I keep bumping into present experiences that take me back to legacies of early life. Yesterday I viewed “The Banshees of Inisherin” and felt the power of my Irish American grandfather to be sooooo self absorbed he never expressed tenderness. Yes he was depressed and alcoholic. I now realize this absence of affection was present in his children, my mother, the eldest of 13, along with the moral invectives of Catholics at the time. It is a pain I feel this morning…the abuses of personal and spiritual power. Yes, one of the experiences of life review, inevitable with thoughtful/filled aging. Thank you.

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