In the Suburbs: Early Thanksgiving gratitude for a special neighbor
When we moved to our new home more than two years ago, we were thrilled to find a nice, quiet neighborhood and some very helpful neighbors. They were never pushy, but they were there and that was a very comforting feeling for these two aging seniors.
One of those neighbors, Dan, and his wife, Shirley, have been particularly kind and helpful. Dan has been amazing and very caring. Maybe that is because Dan grew up in this neighborhood; his parents still live in the same house on our street and he goes out of his way to help them. That caring attitude just seems to come naturally to Dan.
For the first year or so that we lived here, we discovered little unobtrusive things that Dan was doing: like putting our newspapers on the front porch every weekend, returning trash cans to their spots behind the house and plowing the driveway after bad snowstorms. We tried to repay those favors with Christmas baskets and gift cards to Home Depot and they were graciously accepted.
But what makes Dan really special came this past January when we returned from my aunt’s funeral in Chicago and discovered a major leak in the alcove of our home. Once the insurance company had committed to the restoration of the alcove, Dan told us he’d do any of the finishing work on the walls and ceiling of the alcove for minimal cost and not to worry.
We didn’t have any concerns and the work was amazing. The finished alcove looked incredible and we couldn’t have been more grateful. Since that time, Dan has become a good friend and our carpentry and landscape adviser.
Another major role Dan has played in our neighborly life came this past summer. We had lost a beloved cocker spaniel last spring, soon after the pandemic quarantined us, and decided that we didn’t want to be without a second dog. In August, we found this incredible rescue, Blake, a beagle/hound mix. From the moment we brought Blake home, Dan fell in love with the dog.
He offered to walk him daily and since it was still summer, I told Dan I could definitely use the exercise too. We walked with our other dog, Patches, who is 16, two or three times a day. Blake was in heaven and so was Dan. When I returned to school in the fall, we started walking early in the morning. Blake and Dan have become inseparatable best buddies and Blake really looked forward to his walks.
Dan also discovered that Blake was a real family guy. Dan has introduced our new rescue to his entire family. When Dan walks Blake at night, they always stop to see Dan’s parents, Nanny and Poppi, and hang out there for 15 or 20 minutes. Dan also stops at his house where Blake bounds in to greet Shirley and her brother Frank, AKA Uncle Frank.
Blake is barely out of Dan’s sight when he’s not working and that has made life so much easier for my wife, who can’t really take Blake for long walks because of her back and hips. We have been eternally grateful for all Dan has done, but of course, he refuses to take any payment for his good deeds unless the deed is a construction project.
He built a fence in days for our backyard — Blake and our older dog have really christened the yard . Dan still has to finish a height extension of the fence for one section so that Blake doesn’t decide to do a quick getaway.
A few weeks ago, like the son I never had, Dan gently reminded me that winter is coming and we should empty the garage so we can park our cars there. It was filled with more than 70 of my wife’s fabric bins. I had been putting this chore off indefinitely, but within a week, Dan and Frank had arrived one Saturday and cleared half the garage. The bins went into the basement so my wife can go through them, organize and consolidate. The garage looked awesome and there actually was room for one car.
Two weeks later, I worked with Dan and Frank to get rid of tons of junk from probably three moves. Dan went to the dump and they both slid the remaining fabric bins down to the basement. We have so much more room down there now because of the work we had done to remove water. That effort just left the last of our sentimental items in the garage and we should be able to get both cars in soon so Dan can plow.
I could say so much more about all that Dan has done for us, but the most important thing for us, as seniors, is that Dan looks out for us. He checks in with my wife by text during the day if he’s home to be sure she hasn’t had a problem walking Blake. He points out potential areas where we can trip if we’re not careful. But most of all, if he can’t reach my wife and I’m at work, Dan is right there to just knock on the door and check in.
At our age, I couldn’t be more thankful that we have a neighbor who is not only a wonderful person, but someone who genuinely cares about our welfare. As we approach Thanksgiving, I couldn’t be more thankful that Dan and Shirley came into our lives.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.