Good Life

Mother-daughter bonding takes no holiday for State College pair

Irene Hornak, 98, holds her daughter Ruth as they laugh about their life together in their apartment at Juniper Village on Tuesday.
Irene Hornak, 98, holds her daughter Ruth as they laugh about their life together in their apartment at Juniper Village on Tuesday. adrey@centredaily.com

There can be too much of a good thing.

On Sunday, Ruth Hornack and her mother, Irene Hornack, will celebrate their second Mother’s Day together in two weeks — both hosted at Juniper Village at Brookline.

The retirement community planned two holiday feasts to accommodate visiting families and traveling residents, with Ruth and Irene counting as the latter.

They share a small apartment together on one of Juniper’s lower levels, and the occasional celebratory smorgasbord ranks among one of the perks.

Clearly others agreed. In a dining area that was crowded with visiting friends and family, Irene and Ruth noticed just one woman who was sitting all alone.

And so they pulled up a chair.

“I’m glad I have my mom because I just wouldn’t want to be alone,” Ruth said.

The mom in question is 98 years old, hard of hearing and takes a moment or two to answer the door — but she’s among the first to admit that their situation is somewhat unique among other Juniper Village residents.

“It seems unusual for a mother and daughter (to be living together). Usually it’s a husband and wife or all singles,” Irene said.

Ruth and her mother have been living in their apartment at Juniper Village for just less than a year, but they relocated to State College in 1992, shortly after her brother, a pilot at University Park Airport, was diagnosed with cancer.

They had a year with him before he passed away. He was 49 years old.

“I realized that you only have your family for a certain amount of time and then after that, they’re gone,” Ruth said.

Except for Irene. No, Irene will outlive us all.

I’m glad I have my mom because I just wouldn’t want to be alone.

Irene Hornack

Before they arrived at Juniper Village, the mother and daughter duo were living in a private home on Bristol Avenue until the matriarch fell and broke a hip.

Recognizing the house’s multiple flights of stairs as a safety hazard, they decided to err on the side of caution and move into a one-level apartment with a beautiful kitchen — where Irene promptly fell and broke a hip.

She’s back up on her feet now with the help of a walker and seems to enjoy life at Juniper.

“The people here are so nice.They’re so friendly. It just seems like you’ve known them forever,” Irene said.

Downsizing from a house to an apartment had its challenges on either side of the roommate equation. Both mother and daughter are now in much closer quarters together. It works — for the most part.

“Sometimes we have our disagreements, but for the most part we get along fairly well,” Ruth said.

Irene is typically more inclined than her daughter to take advantage of all of the social opportunities within their new community.

It would be a lonely life without her.

Ruth Hornack

Ruth said that Irene’s social graces have helped to make the transition easier.

“My mom is very outgoing, but it’s just recently I’ve started going out more,” Ruth said.

More often than not this means shopping excursions or grabbing a bite to eat with friends at Olive Garden or Red Lobster.

During the summer, mother and daughter will travel to Baltimore to visit Irene’s sister.

It all sounds like a lot of quality time — maybe too much of a good thing.

Or maybe it’s just a matter of perspective.

“It would be a lonely life without her,” Irene said

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

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