On Saturday May 7, 2016 Roy participated in his last commencement service as a professor of Emmanuel Christian Seminary at Milligan College in East Tennessee. On Sunday he preached his final sermon as ad interim pastor of First Christian Church in Johnson City, Tennessee. On Monday he and Joy said goodbye to Velcro children (Darrin and Julie Ronde), grandchildren (Tom and Stephanie Arbaugh), and great-grandchildren (Eden, Elias, and Estin) in Johnson.
And on Tuesday they headed for the West Coast, visiting children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and their furniture along the way.
Here’s the backstory. A year ago we decided the time had come. If we were ever going to get serious about our bucket list, the time was now. Old age was no longer a theoretical possibility; it had arrived, with all the attending bodily malfunctions and diminishing energy appertaining thereto. Roy was 77, Joy 74. Roy had already retired twice but was no good at it. Maybe he could make it stick the third time. Joy was enjoying increasing success at her encaustic art studio, but she felt her art could be placed on hold for awhile.
So it was decided. Roy would retire, Joy would shift from encaustics (painting with hot wax) to painting with cold wax, a more portable medium. We agreed we’d travel with one suitcase and a carry-on apiece, plus a personal item (in the vague language of airline-speak). But what should we do about our house and belongings? Our accumulated precious stuff? Then came the epiphany: “Joy, what will happen to this stuff when we’re dead?” We wouldn’t have any say. Most of it would be trashed. So we decided to beat our descendants at their own game. We practiced being dead! We would give up all control over our possessions, since we’d have none if we were dead. Joy says the decision to give everything away made the process easier, because she then didn’t have to decide what to keep and what to give away. It all went.
When Thanksgiving 2015 came around, daughter Kim and her whole family came for the holiday. Joy met them at the door with sheets she titled, “Lawson Inheritance Inventory Sheet.” They then went through the house writing down what they wanted. We were surprised at how seldom the requests overlapped, and when an item was listed by more than one person, polite conversations decided who got what. The net was widened to include other family members and friends. We discovered it’s a lot more fun to give away than it is to accumulate.
Then in April Kim’s husband Ed flew from their home in Seattle and loaded a U-Haul truck with the claimed goods. Leaving Kim at the Chenault’s house in Rolla, Missouri, where she would be helping daughter Bre and her husband Jack with Ann, their brand new baby daughter, Ed continued his drive across the country, depositing our furniture and other goods as he went.
So here are the Lawsons now, homeless. That meant staying with dear friends Brad and Gretchen Jacob this summer in Roy’s hometown, Tillamook, Oregon.
They are not only the most gracious hosts, but they have a large storage barn, in which Brad dedicated some space for Joy to set up a temporary art studio and store Joy’s art supplies and Roy’s file cabinets when they set off to travel the world.
On July 24 Roy and Joy left for Mexico, where they will live until September.
Who are these crazy people?
Joy Annette Whitney Lawson and Everett LeRoy Lawson were married in Portland, Oregon, June 11, 1960. Ever since they’ve been partners in ministry.
Roy wore the title to these jobs, but quickly admits he could do so because Joy was behind the scenes supporting, counseling, correcting, and stabilizing. She somehow managed to run the household, rear three children (in addition to taking in others we call our Velcro kids), complete her own bachelor’s degree at 40 and then launch a career in interior design and, eventually, as an encaustic artist.
Our children are grown now. Kim (Kimberly Joy) and Candy (Candace Annette) were born in Portland, son Lane Whitney was born in Johnson City, Tennessee, during Roy’s first teaching stint with Milligan College. Kim and Ed live in Seattle. Candy and her husband Michael split their time between their homes and jobs in Melbourne, Australia and London, England (that’s quite a commute). Lane died just before his 27th birthday.
The biological family is small: Kim and her three sons, Kyle, Nick, and Luke Denton and Nick’s daughter McKenna.
It grows when you add in the sons-in-laws: Ed Thompson, Michael Ohanessian.
It grows more when you include the “steps-“ Ed’s son Nicholas and his daughter Bre and her husband Jack; Michael’s sons Jared and Kent and his daughter Talisha.
It keeps growing into the next generation:
daughter of Jack and Bre, and as I mentioned above, Nick’s daughter McKenna.
But years ago we realized we couldn’t limit our family to blood kin. So we have unofficially “adopted” family that are as much family as they would be if were blood kin. We call them Velcro family because like Velcro, they stick.
But for now, let me give you an idea of the current size of our whole family:
Children’s generation (including in-laws): 16
Grandchildren’s generation (including in-laws) 22
Great-grandchildren’s generation: 13
But this still isn’t the whole story. The lines blur. There are “adopted” aunts and uncles and cousins and very close friends who come to our annual all-family vacation (the highest number one year was 70).
This is the crazy family of the crazy Lawsons on the Loose.