Today is the The Longest Day, a sunrise-to-sunset event that symbolizes the challenging journey of those living with the disease and their caregivers. On June 14, 2012, my four siblings and I crowded around my father’s bed to say our final goodbyes. Ronald Paul Geguzys Sr. has been missed in so many ways since then, most especially by his children who never really got the chance to share him with our children. Dad passed away of Alzheimer’s just after his 73rd birthday. He left behind a wife, five kids, 11 grandchildren and many people who had the privilege of calling him a friend. He spent the bulk of his career at GE, growing steadily to CEO of the Ballast Division.
He knew how to work hard and play hard. He was an avid sailor and loved all water sports. He taught us to ski practically from birth! He gave the best hugs and hearing his voice meant all was right in the world. His smile and laughter were infectious. I cannot remember a time growing up when he didn’t know the answer to a question, or at least have the ability to figure it out quickly.
Dad could build anything from scratch, including a car and his homes. Even with such “dad-like” hobbies he was the most gentle nurse when he had to care for my brother and I after we were severely injured in accidents just weeks apart.
He wasn’t perfect. He could be brutally honest, infuriating and inflexible. To know him, though, was to love him. Watching him forget little things was hard, but knowing he had no idea who his kids were was brutal. His death blew a hole in relationships that were built over a lifetime. Watching him suffer was more than we could bear.
It has taken a few years for the pain of his passing to settle enough to push through and do something in his honor. Now, the time is right to honor his memory and join the fight against Alzheimer’s during The Longest Day. This year during the summer solstice we will raise funds and awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association by “Lighting The Park” to honor my dad and others who have been affected by this disease.
Tonight, as the sun sets on The Longest Day, we are meeting downtown in the park. Each person gathered will have a unique hand-blown glassybaby votive with a tea light inside. We will come together and make a statement by lighting our candles together and basking in each light’s glow. By joining as a group to remember and support those we love with Alzheimer’s, we will send a powerful message that we are stronger in numbers.
Growing up, my parents always taught us that together my siblings and I were a fist, as there were five of us, and alone we were just digits. I would like to think the same rule applies to fighting Alzheimer’s. Together we can make a difference. Together we can raise awareness and funds to research a way to finally eradicate this disease so no one has to fight this awful fight.
About the Author: Vicki Fredman is participating in Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day®, a sunrise-to-sunset event on June 20, 2016, to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.