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