Helen Gorman and Thanksgiving

Helen Gorman has lived at Paris Healthcare Center since 2013 but spending time in this building is not foreign to her.   Like many Parisians, Helen had worked here when it was the shoe factory. Now, with her daughter, Donna Rubenacker, employed here as an activity aide, Helen experiences a different sense of what “home” means.  I sat down with Helen, her son David, and Donna to talk about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.  What I came away with was the story of a woman for whom nothing is more important than family.

Helen Louise Liffick was born May 26, 1956, at home, “out in the country.”  Her parents, Laurence (Bud) and Charlotte, raised Helen and her two sister, Carolyn & Charlotte, to value family. While Helen doesn’t recall specific details about Thanksgiving as a child, she very clearly states that it was about being with family.

It’s a tradition she carried into adulthood when she met & married Harold Gorman on December 16, 1956.  They went on to have five children:  Don, Donna, David, Darrell and Dawn.  (There are now also seven grandchildren & two great-grandchildren!) Harold came from a large family, and Thanksgivings were typically spent at the home of Aunt Jane & Uncle Clarence and over 20 cousins!  Donna and David recall there being one big table for the adults with three or four kids’ tables.  Uncle Clarence would say the grace over the meal.   That, along with Harold’s beloved oyster dressing, were the only two traditions Helen and her children brought up about Thanksgiving dinner.  However, when I asked about traditions outside of the meal, the stories came quickly.  Helen remembers that all the women in the family would fix dishes to share.  After the family had their fill, young and old would separate by gender and age:  women to the kitchen for clean-up; men to the t.v. for football (and Heaven help anyone who got in front of the t.v. set!); girl cousins upstairs to share secrets and giggles and the boys to burn-off energy in the basement or sometimes outside. As with many families, naps, too, played a role in the after-meal activities.  David remembers the Thanksgiving holiday always being cold when they were kids.  That didn’t stop them one year from having a water fight!  One of the boy cousins accidentally splashed Harold.  Harold didn’t immediately respond and the kids went on their way.  The next thing anyone knew Harold had snuck up behind the offending boy cousin and snaked the water hose down his back.  The rest of the story can be left to the reader’s imagination!

I asked Helen to speak about what effect there has been upon the holidays since she moved into a long-term care facility.  Her answer, echoed by her daughter, was that coming to Paris Healthcare Center wasn’t necessarily what changed the family’s holidays.  It was Harold’s death on November 16, 2005, one month shy of their 50th wedding anniversary which most greatly changed their lives.  Coincidentally, Helen and her children told their story to me on November 16, 2015.

Helen doesn’t necessarily have any particular advice to impart on the best way to spend the Thanksgiving holiday, nor did she have any culinary tips to share with all of us because to her, being with family on Thanksgiving under any circumstances is what’s important.  In fact what she did have was a question of her own:  “Time goes by so fast.  So fast.  Where does the time go?”  A good reflection for us all as we approach the holiday season.  Here’s hoping that like Helen we all make the most of the situations in which we find ourselves with the people who matter to us the most.  Paris Healthcare Center is proud to assist Helen in telling her story.  We are thankful to her for choosing an IMG facility.

Respectfully submitted,
Amy K. Hannig, A.D.
Life Enrichment Director
Paris Healthcare Center