Dad, a Frontline Hero
Jim Goujon spent much of his career as a union contractor in Boston, chasing backbreaking jobs hours from home.
“It was miserable,” he said. “Driving two hours into Boston knowing you’re going to hate the work all day, another hour or so driving home, exhausted.”
One day, he was asked if he wanted to do some contract work for The Arbors of Bedford in New Hampshire, a Mind and Memory Care community. The guy asking was his son James Goujon, the community’s director of plant operations.
Jim took on the work and quickly began to enjoy the atmosphere, the associates, residents and even his new boss. The community’s feelings were mutual. Four years ago, Jim was offered a full-time job and he gladly took it.
James is often asked if it’s difficult supervising his father. He says the two can “butt heads at times,” probably because they’re both perfectionists when it comes to the work. Furthermore, any notion of favoritism went out the door when the community’s other managers voted to make Jim their Service Champion of the Year in 2019 (James couldn’t vote on his father’s nomination).
“Since Jim joined the community, he has performed at the highest level,” his son said.
‘Nothing but heroic’
In March 2020, Jim was asked to temporarily step into his son’s position and cover for James while he was out on FMLA parental leave to care for his newborn son. The grandfather was happy to do so.
Jim’s first day in the role, unfortunately, coincided with the community’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 and the FMLA status meant James could not legally be contacted about returning to work.
Jim took it in stride and began working long days to implement infection control measures to help keep the virus from spreading. This included moving residents to new apartments, as staff isolated known COVID-19 cases, helping consultants with zip-wall installation, and working closely with the housekeeping teams. He even had a burst water pipe to deal with on Christmas Eve.
He worked more than a 40-day stretch without downtime.
“It was nothing but heroic. What he was doing in the building was a monumental task,” said James. He added that neither his father nor the community told him the extent of the work happening at the community, as they knew James had his hands full.
James pointed out that his father, a 60-year-old former Green Beret, not only needed to move 120-pound beds around but also provide the personal touch so crucial in assisted living.
“He was in the rooms working hand and hand with nurse’s aides, making sure that the set up was comfortable for the residents,” James explained. He added that associates were like an extension of family to residents when restrictions prevented visitors.
“Jim engaged residents and asked how they were doing. He was there as a familiar face, which is critical for residents with memory issues,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Jim’s wife, Denise, had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, making her a very high risk for COVID-19 infection. That meant Jim’s infection control protocols extended to home.
The couple set up a quarantine area in their kitchen for him to put his work uniform into a garbage bag and straight into the washing machine. Then, Jim would take a shower and Denise would set aside fresh clothes. After Jim put on his mask, they’d spend the evenings six feet apart.
Not One for Attention
Now that the community has returned to a sense of normalcy, Jim reflects on the dedication of the entire team at The Arbors.
“When a community goes through something like this, or a family, they form a certain type of bond,” Jim said.
He explained that it was the camaraderie and teamwork that kept everyone going. “I had an obligation to the other associates and the residents to keep my head up and do my best at all times,” he said. “We all did.”
Peter Touborg, The Arbors executive director, said Jim’s work and presence were vital. “Jim was nothing less than a Godsend for us – to have such a calm, steady, capable hand to see us through the most difficult time community had ever experienced.”
Jim still can’t believe he gets to wake up each morning feeling happy and excited to go to work.
“I get to make people’s lives better. Maybe they don’t remember it two minutes later, but for that moment they were happy about it,” he said. “It’s the little things. The lightbulbs. The broken tile.”
Father’s Day Plans
Asked what he’s getting his dad for Father’s Day, James responded, “A day off!” He is going to cover Jim’s shift this coming Sunday.
Jim and Denise are looking forward to spending time with their six grandchildren during a trip to York Beach in Maine to celebrate togetherness and family.
Jim will be free to laugh and play and reengage in grandfather-hood, together with his family in the waves and sand.
“I’m very excited just doing something normal like that,” Jim said.