This sign means more to us as we prepare to leave this paradise.

Our final week in Key West was pretty, to coin a phrase, low key. We had visited the tourist attractions earlier. We had entertained good friends from Ohio, our Velcro son Brian from Arizona, and romped with the great-grandkids from Tennessee. These past few days have been with Velcro son Mike from California. We conquered the Brazil visa application process and have passports and visas at the ready. The last two days were, as always when we prepare to leave a temporary home, spent on our familiar clean-up, pack-up exercises. Next stop: Campinas, Brazil.

Within two minutes of each other we received two important phone calls. The first was the downstairs rental office. Our visas had arrived. Jubilation! We thanked God that headache was behind us. And we thanked Donna Alexander in the CMF office for her bulldog determination to make it happen, assisted by Debbie Palich. We also owed gratitude to my Key West dentist Dr. Lindner’s office (Pat and Becky) for letting me set up shop there for awhile—and to James who runs the Mail Room downstairs, who helped in so many ways (tapping into his system by Ethernet cable and camping at his counter as I wrestled with the Portuguese application forms online. We immediately sent word to our Brazilian friend Carlos Franco that the loose Lawsons would soon be on our way to his country.

The second call was from Mike. He had landed at Key West International Airport. (Do not be fooled by this grandiose title!) He grabbed a ride on Lyft and was at our place in ten minutes. We’re always eager to have Mike join us somewhere in the world. “What would you like to see in your few days here?” we asked.

The (summer) Hat and Velcro son Mike at the Ernest Hemingway House. When Mike is introduced as my “Velcro” or “adoptive son” people catch on quickly that he’s not my biological offspring!
Mike and Joy at Hemingway house. If she didn’t look so young perhaps she could fool them.

First choice was the sunset cruise. I was glad. It behooves the host to do what the guest wants. This host was delighted with Mike’s first choice; he would need company. That would be me. This meant a third round of Lawsons (Round One with the Taylors; Round Two: grandkids Tom and Stephi Arbaugh; Round Three: Prior) for Captain Ricky and his schooner, the Spirit of Independence. The little ship, by the way, was built in Independence, Missouri, the home town of President Harry Truman, whose Little White House is in Key West, just off Truman Street. We enjoyed another picture-perfect evening on the water.

Doing what we do best: eat.

For sure Mike needed to visit the Ernest Hemingway House and its 54 cats. Mike’s cat “Einstein” is only slightly less pampered in California than these denizens of the House are in Florida. Mike was duly impressed—even counted to make certain they had six toes on each paw. This time we joined the tour group and learned more of the life of this talented, tortured, multi-married, bipolar, adventurous but finally tragic author.

Ernest Hemingway portrait

I thought of Ida Boquist, my high school English teacher, who entertained her Juniors by reading Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea to us. Juniors! I’ve often thought of her unorthodox teaching style. She taught us to conjugate verbs and class nouns and write clear sentences, of course, but what has stuck more than anything else was that room filled with 16-to-18-year-olds listening with rapt attention as she read to us as she would to small children. We don’t outgrow the magic of a good story well told, do we?

Ernest Hemingway’s typewriter

Mike spent a good portion of his time here working. He’s the president of FPM (Financial Planning Ministry), a church-related agency assisting individuals with their estate plans and planned giving. While here he was guiding his organization by phone—and guiding his hosts as we updated our living trust. FPM prepares your trust for free if you include among your beneficiaries one of the dozens of churches and organizations that sponsor the ministry. Mike’s service to us wasn’t completely free. I bought dinner one evening.

Key West side street at night. You can barely see the little old couple at the left of the picture.

We spent some time reminiscing, of course. Mike and I began working together in 1979 when I became the pastor of Central Christian Church in Mesa, Arizona. He was already on staff as part-time children’s pastor–the job I thought he was born for (he was that good at it!) until I saw his even more sterling work later as our business administrator and executive pastor before leaving us to lead FPM. We went through some tough days together, including that period when we were afraid we could lose Central Christian Church’s new building. We were carrying a multimillion dollar mortgage when general interest rates rose to 14%. Our lender wanted money we didn’t have. Mike stepped in, negotiated a deal with an Arizona bank we could live with, and saved our building. He remembers the particulars; I’ve spent the years since trying to forget them.

Key West is famous for its many Cuban cigar shops. Here Mike and the Hat examine options–then choose to give this adventure a pass. (And Joy didn’t even  have to make us behave. We are, it appears, maturing.)

That conversation reminded me of another. I was president of Hope International University (then Pacific Christian College) in California at the same time I pastored Central Christian Church in Arizona–accumulating a gazillion frequent flyer points over the nine years–when one of several crises hit there. One day Laure, our Chief Financial Officer–came into my office, closed the door, looked me squarely in the face, and challenged, “Do you really think we can make it?” You tend to remember such conversations. (BTW, we did make it–the Lord is good–and Hope is a thriving university today.)

We took Mike around to meet some of our favorite people here: Captain Ricky, whom I already mentioned. James, who runs the Mail Room downstairs and was so helpful to me in the visa process. Dr. George Lindner who repaired my tooth and whose staff also helped me with my computer needs. There were others, like the proprietors of Frenchie’s Café, whose food was matched only by their good service; and Terri Hill, the minister of our Methodist church home here; and some of our favorite waiters and waitresses in some of our favorite restaurants. We are going to miss this place and its warm, welcoming people.

Frenchie’s Cafe is just off Duval Street–at the quieter end of the famous street.
Frenchie’s Cafe’s co-owner. She and Frenchie immigrated here from Paris six years ago. They have a thriving business. Hurricane Irma closed them down for two months. We were glad they were open when Brian and I stopped by for a cuppa. That was the first of several cups.


Love the colorful porch seating, reminiscent of our days in the East Tennessee hills.
Three diverse chandeliers make a quirky restaurant decor. (I notice a restaurant’s food. Joy checks out the lighting.)
The daily view from Mallory Square–and a good memory to carry with us.
Another memory that time won’t erase: At the southernmost point of the continental United States with our great-grandkids.

11 thoughts on “FAREWELL TO KEY WEST”

  1. I visited the Hemingway House in Cuba and cats were a big item there too. I don’t remember Boquist reading The Old Man and the Sea. Did you have her for English in addition to Latin?
    Hope you enjoy Brazil. Jill’s good friend,roommate and maid of honor is from Brazil.

  2. Lawsons-your blog is an unfailing source of delight and food for another adventurous soul. Onward to Brazil-and a christmas season with some of the merriest people on the planet!

  3. Dear Lawsons, Thank you for dragging me along in your retirement adventures. I hope moving all of us ‘stay at homes’ doesn’t make your burden heavy! Your blog brightens my inbox on a day that looks pretty grey,wet and dreary at the outset, but there are adventures to be had, even here on Green’s Briar Acres! Seizing the day! I’m foing to focus on the ‘pretty stuff’, just like Joy! Oh! I just caught a glimpse of my Christmas Rhodie buds beginning to burst with Red! Awesome God.

  4. I have several complaints about your time with Mike: 1) You bought him dinner (you say so unapologetically right in the post). And, I assume, that’s in *addition* to the t-shirt he told me you bought him? I herein invoke the equal-opportunity clause in the Velcro-Adoption Agreement and make formal demand for a nice meal at a restaurant of my choosing, paid for by you, during the enjoyment of which you must present me with a t-shirt from Brazil (and not some cheap “knock-off” brand like you brought me from China). 2) I believe I made it clear in several text messages that you were not to have fun without me. It seems from those pictures that you were having fun. That’s against the (my) rules. Therefore, you must reduce the amount of fun you have in the next phase of your trip to compensate. And finally, 3) Frenchie’s was *our* restaurant. You and I discovered it. Together. I don’t think it’s the right place for common folk, like Mike. That cheapens it’s memory.

    But other than that, nice post.

  5. Ah, your posts are a delight! Joy, you look fabulous in the photo. Are you sleeping on ice? Why did I get older,…looking?
    Wish I’d been able to fly in for a brief visit. I wouldn’t demand dinner or t-shirts like your juvenile Velcro children😜

  6. Among the delights in your valediction to Key West: Memories of your high school English teacher–“We don’t outgrow the magic of a good story, well told, do we?” Tales of time well spent with great grandchildren and Velcro son Mike. And Joy’s splendid photo of the glorious sunset as seen from Mallory Square.

  7. Dear Roy and Joy, I’m glad you will get to visit Brazil. Remember to come to Oregon, especially including Oregon Christian Convention, June 26-July 1. Will have Food Pack–26th to 30th at Turner Church. Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year! Love, Faye

  8. I really enjoyed the information on what to see and do on Key West. I do hope we can make it down there …. sooner than later. Enjoyed thinking back to your time in Mesa also!
    A very Merry Christmas to you and Joy!

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