In appreciating our neighbor, we're participating in something truly sacred. FRED ROGERS
It's no coincidence in my mind that National Caregiving Month and the release of the film, "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" are happening now in November. You see, neighbors are caregivers too!
My Neighborhood: Caring for My Elderly Parents and Me, Their Caregiver
Surrounded by Goodness
This is my neighborhood in East Peoria, IL where I grew up and my 93-year-old father and 85-year-old mother still lives. I'm currently living in the Chicago-land area with my husband, two grown children, and 2 furry-faced kids. Our house is the reddish-colored rooftop in the lower-left corner. And the neighbors, whom I call our "Guardian Angels" are the rooftops surrounding them. And though I travel every-other-week to be there and help my parents, it is truly these amazing neighbors who make it possible for my parents to remain in their beloved home that my dad built.
Earlier this week, I made my regular trip home, this time to take dad to doctor appointments and help mom with household chores.
Just Being Good Neighbors - Day 1 --
- The Lawn - As I pulled into the driveway, my car loaded with supplies and 2 dogs, I took in the freshly mowed and totally leaf-free lawn. In a hurry to get unloaded, fix a quick lunch and head out for dad's doctor's appointment, I shouted over my shoulder, "Wow, who did all that work in the yard?". It was my mom who answered, saying, "You need to head into the bedroom. Your dad is crying. Mike came over and did all that work and blew the leaves off the lawn. Your dad is overwhelmed. He can't believe he did all of that." Now, mind you, our yard is 2 acres. Between Mike and Steve, our other neighbor, they just drop over ...even when my brother or I am there doing yard work...Mike heads over on his riding mower and Steve with his push mower and it's a crazy site of teamwork!
- The Check-Ins - No more than being home for 30 minutes the texts arrived. Christina, yet another neighbor, notices I'm home and asked if everything is "okay". Then Linda, Steve's wife, texts to see if I needed a hand with the dogs and offered to have them come to her house to run in the back yard for a while after such a long ride.
Just Being Good Neighbors - Day 2 --
- The Garbage - An early November snow, melting and refreezing meant waking on an icy driveway. Ever so slowly, I made my way out with the garbage can to the end of the driveway. I had to go slow, as I'm still healing from a broken knee cap from a bad fall I took. Well, Linda saw me from across the street and scolded me with, "You shouldn't be doing that! I will bring that back up to the house after the garbage man comes. I don't want your mom or you to take another fall."
- The Calls and Waves - Ron, from next door, called to see if we needed anything. Ron often comes and shovels the sidewalk or helps dad with yard work...oh, and he's super talented with helping my brother drop in a new toilet for my parents! And, as I went out later to get the mail, Dale and Vonnie from the end of the street were driving by and slowly rolled down the window with a wave of the hand and a shout out the window, "You guys need anything?"
Just Being Good Neighbors - Day 3 --
- The Car That Wouldn't Start - Once again, with my car fully loaded back-up and both dogs settled in for a nice long ride home, I darted over to Kyle and Christina's house with something to drop off. It was FREEZING outside and icy so I made my stop-over quick. A hug and a few words quickly exchanged, I jumped back in the car to head off. But, the car would not re-start. So, Kyle who happened to be working at home came out to see what the issue was and proceeded to try and jump the car. No luck. He then took the battery out of the car, and because it was so heavy, Kyle carried over to my parents, while I wrestled with getting the dogs out of the cold car and back over to the house as well.
- The Runaways -- Recall that I had just broken my knee cap. Carefully walking in the snow with the dogs on leashes, avoiding the icy surfaces, then...SQUIRREL. The dogs lunged and I started to go down and had to let go. Off they ran. They ran for a mile, all the way up to the highway. As I walked and shouted for them over a 10 minute period of time, I see 2 men who lived a couple blocks away walking towards me with my dogs in tow. It was freezing and I thanked them but told them I could take it from here. NO, they insisted on walking them all the way back home because it was too icy out and the dogs were pulling hard.
- The Replacement -- Borrowing my parents' car, I returned with a new battery. Bad news, the rear compartment to get the battery back in would not open without power! Well, Kyle just figured it out and crawled in back to put the new battery in. And, voila, the car started! What a relief.
Just Being Good Neighbors - Day 4 --
- Goodbyes -- With apprehension, I went out to start the car and re-load. It started, no problem. It was still too cold for anyone else to be up that early and wave me off. So, with hugs and kisses from mom and dad, I took off. By the time I got home, I had 2 texts from the neighbors, who had seen I'd left, asking, "Did you make it home okay?".
A Beautiful Life in the Neighborhood
Our neighborhood, without a doubt, rivals Mr. Roger's in so many different ways.
You might be thinking that these are 4 extraordinary days. Well, excluding the car issues, nope. Phone calls, texts, drop-ins and taking on chores without being asked is the norm. Help when dad falls, baked goods, plowing the driveway, bringing them their mail and keeping a watchful out for anything unusual is what these neighbors do all of the time.
In years long before old age and illness robbed my parents of their ability to do a lot of these things on their own, they were the ones helping their neighbors. They would do the same that they are now receiving, which is all part of being a good neighbor.
We are truly blessed. These 'angels' have filled our lives with love and caring, and constantly come to our rescue. My prayer would be for others to have such wonderfully, good neighbors too. I thank God every night for their help and their kindness.
In a few short weeks, we are throwing a neighborhood party to celebrate their goodness, laugh together and keep each other's needs close to our hearts.
I know that growing old in this neighborhood is only possible because of the people who so generously give of themselves to care for their elders...my parents.
Yes, neighbors are caregivers too!
(Below is a recent picture of our neighbor's son, Briar, who is recovering himself from surgery. Kyle and Christina brought him over to cheer dad up. The Cubs gear and Briar's laughter did the trick. #Blessed #BeAGoodNeighbor)
Deb Kelsey-Davis is Co-Founder of Nourish for Caregivers and caregiver to her parents, John and Donna Kelsey, along with her brother Dan and the ENTIRE Neighborhood!