What makes a good neighbour? Someone who always has a spare cup of sugar to lend you?
Maybe it is someone who clears the letter box when you are on holiday.
What about someone who comes every morning and every evening to your home to help you get from your bed on to the toilet?
My dad was in his early 30s when he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
While his brain remained as intact as ever, his body deteriorated at a rapid rate; losing the use of his legs and arms and all core strength.
I lived with my mum, dad and younger brother in a regular house, on a regular street, in a regular suburb with extraordinary neighbours.
For over a decade it was our neighbours who helped us care for dad.
Operating on a roster system they would come daily to lift him from his bed and into his recliner chair which took pride of place in our lounge room.
But sometimes the lift would be onto a commode so he could poo.
While I can remember the awful stench, I cannot remember even once a comment or uncomfortable glance from the men who came to our home to help; the men who lived in our street.
They all had a system for lifting. The main muscle man would count out loud; one, two, three, and on three everyone knew it was the moment heave his body from one place to another.
Our family did not know these people until we moved into our regular house.
And I am not sure these incredible “angels” will ever really know what their commitment over many many years actually meant to our family.
First and foremost it meant our dad could be at home with us.
There was no way my mum had the physical strength to do the heavy lifting day in day out. And while my brother and I tried will all our might to step up to the plate, we were only little kids.
Our hearts and love for our dad was far greater than our little limbs could carry.
These incredible neighbours went on to become life-long friends.
In fact one of men who was a constant in our home was one of the pall bearers at my father’s funeral.
I will never forget the moment at the cemetery when he stood alongside my brother holding the straps that would lower my dad’s coffin into the ground, and counted in a soft voice; one, two, three.
On three, just as they had done so many times before, they made their final lift.
Now I am all grown up with a family of my own.
I look around the houses surrounding our home and wonder what is happening in the lives of my neighbours.
Does one of them need a lift? Do they need a cup of sugar? And would they come to me if they did?
Is my busy life getting in the way of really knowing the people I live alongside?
For now it’s just a quick hi and a wave as I pull in and out of the driveway.
But thank God the regular suburb I grew up in, with the regular houses on the regular street did so much more than that for me and my dad.
Jo Palmer is a newsreader for Southern Cross Tasmania and a former Miss Australia
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