Starry, Starry Night and Other Phenomenal Experiences

January 10, 2018

While the Georgia landscape faded into the distance, the memorable experiences remained fresh as we started back on the road, wrapping up our incredible journey on a west coast high note. My friends and I had a rare diversionary couple of days where we wound up in different locales. Francis and Rosie headed back to Colorado to hang with the iN2Lers for a day or so, while I set off to California to speak at the CALA conference with the lovely and talented Kelly Ording from Watermark (she’s smart and a hoot).

Our quest to build awareness of Cameroonian elders was winding down. Such an extraordinary journey must eventually conclude as both Francis and I had our day jobs to attend to once this jaunt was over. Zipping across the country to Washington State and ending in San Francisco – our trip was a 2017 version of the zany road trip Ricky and Lucy took to California, without the convertible.

We reconvened in Washington State, and, just as the rest of our excursions, our time was spectacular on multiple levels. Upon arrival, Francis and Rosie hustled to get to a fundraiser at Crista Senior Living. Wendy Kleppe, their marketing director, caught the Francis bug during my presentation at the LeadingAge Washington Conference earlier in the year, sparking her coordination of a tremendous community event held in his honor. I arrived later that evening and was able to join Francis, Rosie, Crista and her team for a fabulous dinner. Crista has a robust ministry that has been actively involved with Africa for many years, so our meal was punctuated with a passionate exchange of African stories. Both the stories and the generosity of our hosts were palpable.

We woke early the next morning to visit two beautiful. Their leaders are two lifelong friends of mine and iN2L. Kevin McFeely and Lynette Laudenburg. Our first stop was at Tacoma Lutheran, where the residents welcomed the Cameroonian couple with open arms. Kevin arranged a first-class tour, injecting his signature flair for the dramatic. He didn’t disappoint, as he topped off the fun and frolic with a handsome and completely unexpected $2,000 check for CDVTA. Certainly a wonderful way to begin the day!

We then drove up the coast to Martha & Mary, a rustic community nestled in the small town of Poulsbo, the “little Norway on the Fjord.” Situated on the majestic Pacific Northwest coast, we felt a warm embrace of simpler times reminiscent of Andy Griffith’s idyllic Mayberry. One of the unique attributes of Martha & Mary is the connection to a grammar school. This nationally recognized intergenerational program is at the heart of Martha & Mary. Lynette enriches entire generations of humans! Consequently, we took an entertaining diversion from the senior living world and headed to meet up with some rather spunky and inquisitive second and third graders – now, that is culture! There were 30 to 40 kids hanging on every word Francis and Rosie uttered. This time their message was appropriately tailored toward a child’s experience in their homeland. The children were anticipating pick-up from their parents, so understandably half were attentive, while half were squirming, but they all had a question or two.

This experience was difficult to top, but Lynette managed to do so by treating us to a very high-end affair that included plenty of wine, amazing hors d’oeuvres, fancy dresses and Francis and Rosie in full regalia. Lynette does everything with flair and this was no exception! One of the local “heroes” had a fundraising campaign in his honor with monies funding his visit to Cameroon in the future and possibly tying into Walter Coffey’s project aimed at staffing a nurse for the Dorothy York Senior Center. How cool is that?

The glamourous, yet exhausting evening was a surreal culmination to the night. Instead of the long drive from Poulsbo to Seattle, we opted to take a ferry back to our hotel, a decision that offered us the bonus of an amazing cosmic display! The lights of the city were bouncing off the canopy of stars in the sky, a reflective experience characteristic of this entire journey. The next day we are off to the City by the Bay. San Francisco was the final leg of this Francis tour. Our journey was nearing its end!