This House on the Hill

By Scott Andrews

Editor’s Note: From time to time, I’ll share personal essays from friends that I particularly enjoy. We start the series with this piece by Scott Andrews, founder and Executive Director of the SLO Jazz Festival.

I have to admit, when I come out to my folks’ place now, I am sad and depressed that they sold it. I let it be known that I felt it was premature to sell it, as they have the money to pay for landscaping, plumbing help, etc., and it really wasn’t necessary. Yet, feeling the struggle of keeping the place “up” they did sell it, and now it’s just a couple of weeks before the big move. I’m here at the ranch today looking out for it while they are in Ojai, and it is eerily quiet, serene, and beautiful, on a slightly breezy mid-70’s California day.

I’m sad, I admit it. I am also perplexed. I can’t shake this feeling and tears well up in my eyes and stream down my face.

We are so blessed, first to have had these two people in our lives watching over us, sometimes to their disappointment, sometimes to their pleasure, but nonetheless with unconditional love and support.

Yet, I also feel immense gratitude for both of them working so hard and making the sacrifices, and being bolder than all of their friends to move to Arroyo Grande in 1968, create this oasis in the country for them and my siblings to both grow up and over time return for holidays and so many special occasions.

I describe Frank and Kathryn Andrews, my parents, as “wonderful, amazing, smart, funny, wise, and pioneering spiritual people”. It is on the backs of people like these two that this country was built. My mother is a Daughter of the American Revolution. Dad fought in the Korean War. Both of my parents came from farming families, ended up meeting while in college at Columbia Missouri, then built careers touching many lives in both construction and teaching.

And yet they achieved the “American Dream” – literally – by risk-taking, saving, not drinking, and being smart with their money. When I was a kid, I remember asking “can we go to McDonald’s?” and Mom replying “No, it is too expensive.” I wore hand me down clothes. But they did it, and did it with style nonetheless.

We built the house on top of the hill when I was in 4th grade. Yes, my brother and I pounded 16 lb nails into the roof and floor after Dad would set the chalk line. Terri would cook while Mom helped with whatever Dad needed or stained the beautiful beam ceiling in the family room where so many great times were had. We built the house well and it has served the family well.

They also raised three pretty awesome kids (if I am biased about the third one, please forgive me). They helped my Great Aunt Claramae build a house on the same land lower on the hill several years later, which they sold a while back. They’ve helped others, like Aunt Katie and Grandma Chris, go out the way they wanted to, after so many amazing meals, pies, and celebrations together.

They created incredible parties and bar-b-que get togethers with great friends from square dancing, teaching school, back East family, Sunday School, Gideon’s, created and led a local Toastmasters, created and led an Arroyo Grande Garden Club, and have touched countless lives through being a true example of what Christ meant when he taught those things 2,000 years ago. If Mom and Dad aren’t going to heaven some day when they pass, nobody will. I love them both dearly, in case you can’t tell.

They both helped me create my dreams, too. Without their support, there would be no SLO Jazz Festival. When we (the team) finally did it, it was with a tear that I could look out in the crowd and thank Mom and Dad, who had loaned me money to make rent while I scrimped by and worked so hard to bring about that event. It takes a team, and my team starts with my Mom and Dad. My brother and sister and others also are supportive of this, and we all celebrated that day. I hope we will celebrate many more, although the time for all of us celebrating together is drawing nearer the end than we know.

I know we don’t take it with us when we go, but for my friends who’ve recently sold/moved, etc., or had a childhood home or longtime home no longer, please share how you’ve processed these deep feelings. What did you do? I’m struggling today, and don’t have the answer in the moment. I feel blocked and struggling to get work done, make calls to book shows, work on jazz festival, Purium, and Cold to Gold, which I must do to achieve my goals.

It’s not just the house, it’s also the realization that these two great people can no longer keep doing everything they’ve done. It’s so hard to see those we love the most grow old and weak. My Dad was strong as an ox and could out-work any man I’ve ever met, including his best student, Jim Kirkwald, who helped us build the house. I process loss and grief heavily, more than the average cat, I suppose, but I do. I have big highs, and big lows. I usually show you the highs, and hide the lows because I really only want you to know me and see me as this “UP” person, inspiring and encouraging you.

I hope some of you understand that I rarely show when I fail, or struggle, or feel sad or depressed, because I don’t want to read it myself and believe we should only focus on what we want. But today, one day, I will share this with you.

So, how to reset? How do you get grounded when you feel your childhood memories being torn away from physical place and left only in thoughts and scrapbooks, packed away in boxes in storage? I guess I’m asking for ideas and encouragement while feeling a bit low today, as soon I will watch my parents drive down the hill, with the remainder of their possessions, to some place new, on maybe one of their last big adventures.

I can no longer dictate what I want – that’s gone.

My gut, and my own wisdom as I write this says, trust God, trust life, there’s a meaning bigger than I know. Love is always the answer.

But how? I feel helpless and like a piece of me–perhaps a piece of all of us–is going away forever, as they move away from this beautiful house on the hill.

Published by Dave Congalton

Writer. Radio Host. Screenwriter. Enjoying the Good Life on California's Central Coast.

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