In Any Syracuse Season, a Good Neighbor Is a Great Thing

Jan 15, 2014


Tim Garriques
Credit Mark Bialczak
The first time we had a shovel-worthy snow this winter, my next-door neighbor was out front with his mega-efficient snowblower.

Spotting me using both manners of snow removal -- the push and the throw, to those of you well versed in Central New York driveways and walks in winter -- Tim Garriques strolled his machine over and cleared the bottom of my driveway.

This season, I decided to give in. My stubborn side had refused his kind offer in years past, unless the snow was measured in feet instead of inches, and it appeared I would not be able to labor the white stuff out of the way in time for my wife to get her car out and on the way to work in a fairly timely manner.

So far this winter, he's taken the short walk between our two Eastwood neighborhood houses and thrown the snow behind Karen's car out of the way.

It's nice to have a neighbor like this in Syracuse. In fact, over the years I've come to refer to Mr. Garriques as Good Neighbor Tim.

He chuckled the first time I let him in on the nickname. I get the feeling he thinks I'm funny sometimes. I know he realizes that as hard as I try, some chores appear to be slightly beyond my immediate grasp.

So I have experienced:

•Tim lugging his bigger-than-mine ladder over to help a twentysomething retrieve one of those remote-controlled helicopters from the top of the olive tree that used to adorn our front yard until the big wind toppled it several winters ago.

•Tim offering us the small cherry tree he and his lovely wife, Lorraine, dug out from behind their house. When he saw me having trouble breaking the tough earth a foot down, he dragged over a heavy metal rod as tall as me, and showed me how to wallop the shale to break through and make a hole big enough for the root ball. When said tree didn't take, he apologized for perhaps not giving me the proper directions. And when Karen and I subsequently put in a flowering Robinson crabapple in that same hole to at last successfully replace the fallen olive, he may have smiled widest of all.

•Tim politely telling me over my shoulder that there actually is a tool specifically made to help press in the side stripping while replacing a screen after perhaps hearing me gash-and-swear one time too many after my screwdriver slipped.

This summer, it will be a decade since Karen and I decided to merge our two different households into one single-story Syracuse city home.

We both recall walking up our driveway the afternoon that we closed, and the gentleman from next door quickly closing the short distance between the two houses to greet us. We remember because we thought it odd when he asked why we'd purchased a home on this particular street when perhaps there were more shining examples of robust city living elsewhere.

Little by little, I've picked up information that explains that statement.

At 71 years old, Tim has been living in the house next door since 1969, two decades after it was built. That's more than 40 years in the same spot. He and Lorraine raised their son, Mark, in the two-bedroom, one-bath home that was constructed from the same floor plan as our house. Mark still comes over for dinner every Sunday.

When we replaced our fence, he told us about the time when the previous owners put up the old fence. He knows about how they put up our screened-in back porch. He indeed followed closely   all projects in the day. If we ever lock ourselves out of the house, he's promised, he can show us a secret way back in. That one may have caused me to raise an eyebrow.

When the big wind toppled that olive tree, which pulled the electrical hook-up from the peak of our house as it fell, he made us feel better with stories of other trees doing more damage in our little stretch of the world.

When I complain about apartment dwellers from across the street not following alternate-side-of-the-street parking rules and making it hard to back out of the driveway when drifts pile up in the winter, Tim can raise his been-there, felt-that eyebrow.

I try as hard as I can to return the kindness. Sometimes Lorraine takes their one car elsewhere, and he knows I'm happy to give him a lift to the store or anywhere else.

When Karen and I go away, I know that Tim has our cell phone number in case of an emergency.

We don't do dinners, or picnics, or watch football together. We have different tastes and interests. But every day, I'm thankful for my relationship with Good Neighbor Tim.

I know he always stands watchful at our side.

Have you developed a beneficial bond with a neighbor? Is there somebody you'd like to publicly thank for being there? Feel free to share your thoughts by clicking and commenting.