As far back as Anita can remember, her father Leslie L. Selby (Les) was always busy “tinkering with something” or helping others, likely by also tinkering with their “somethings.” Her parents owned a 40-acre farm in Michigan, half leased for crops and half filled with fruit trees, farm animals, and a house that was built in the early 1800s. Her father proudly served in the Navy, where he obtained his engineering background, then worked for Michigan Bell telephone (now AT&T). Balancing farm work, a career, and being a full-time husband and father was often tough. Anita remembers how her father, Les, always found time for helping others. “Putting a smile on other’s people’s faces was the most rewarding [for him],” she shares. “He was a jack of all trades. Dad took care of everything,” Anita says. Anita’s mother passed away in 2011, so her father managed everything on the farm himself.
Anita first caught a glimpse into her father’s eventual Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis when a friend of the family called to say Les was not doing well. In 2014, he totaled his truck in April and in May was hospitalized for a possible stroke and dehydration. Anita packed her bags and booked a flight home. At the hospital, in conversation with the doctors, was the first time she heard the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s [in reference to her own father]. After this, her father’s health declined rapidly and she moved home to care for him.
Anita remembers her father swiftly forgetting how to fix things that used to come second nature to him. He would take apart broken doorknobs and then couldn’t replace them. The moment the family decided he needed to move off the farm came in a similar occurrence, watching her dad acknowledge that he couldn’t fix the mailbox. “He just looked at me and said ‘Sis, I just can’t do this. I don’t think the medication is working.'” Anita remembers the heartbreak she felt watching Les purposefully giving up his independence, losing enthusiasm for even helping others. “He would just sit and watch life go by,” she shares. Anita even admits she was so busy caring for him, she put aside her own medical needs — health concerns that are still present today.
With her dad’s financial planning he was able to afford an assisted living community. Shortly after her father moved into the community, she met the wife of a former resident and a member of Anita’s church who set up the local Alzheimer’s Association Chapter in Port Huron. This woman introduced Anita to the local Walk to End Alzheimer’s event and other resources in the area. This bonded Anita to amazing friends that provided much needed support. Anita participated in the local Walk to End Alzheimer’s for several years before Les passed in 2018. Anita visited her father often, watching football and helping him to lead as normal a life as possible. Even after he passed, Anita felt connected to the staff where her father lived, continuing to bring them baked goods and gratitude.
Recently, Anita has moved to Onslow County, North Carolina and saw on Facebook an advertisement for the Alzheimer’s Association for The Longest Day. This campaign invites individuals to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s through an activity of their choice. After her father passed, Anita felt an emptiness not caring for other people. She felt drawn to the open-ended nature of the fundraising technique and got to thinking about how she could fit fundraising into her normal life and passions. As she settled into her new home, the idea came to her — a yard sale! She was downsizing from her last home and had plenty to share with the community. Anita’s yard sale was a couple of weeks ago, and she is already halfway to her fundraising goal. She also hosted a virtual Pampered Chef party, donating a portion of the profits, to attain her goal. In future years, Anita has plenty of other ideas, from crafts to baking, that she is happy to share with anyone interested in starting their own The Longest Day team! “Just do what is in your heart, whatever fits already in your life,” advises Anita.
Anita honors her father’s journey by continuing his legacy of giving back to her community. She is most passionate about advancing medical research and expanding community support programs in her area. She acknowledges that although she was very lucky to be connected to resources at such a perfect moment, there are many caregivers that feel alone and helpless, without access to readily available local resources. She is seeing just how prevalent this disease is, and is already helping several friends along their care giving journeys as well. She IS her father’s daughter after all.
WE ALL HAVE A REASON TO FOLLOW OUR HEART AND FIGHT FOR A WORLD WITHOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE. Start planning your own The Longest Day Fundraiser today.
The day with the most light is the day we fight! On The Longest Day, thousands of participants from across the world will come together to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s through an activity of their choice. Together, they will use their creativity and passion to raise funds and awareness for the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association®. Whether participating at home, online or in-person, we have plenty of fun ideas to engage family and friends in The Longest Day. Join the fun today!