Many of us have watched the classic film “A Christmas Story” as a holiday tradition. We can recall several years of laughing around the TV with our family. For one of the movie’s stars, family meant a bit more this holiday season; it’s the first since his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Zack Ward, who played the role of bully Scut Farkas, had a tougher 2020 than usual, as his 74-year-old father received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in July. To help bring awareness to the disease, Ward visited the Cleveland house featured in “A Christmas Story” during the week of Christmas this year, helping with tours, signing autographs, and taking selfies with fans.
He told Spectrum News 1 in Ohio, “Christmas is a perfect time to remember the people that you love and take care of them and maybe open up your hearts to the opportunity of giving. And I don’t just mean like give money to the Alzheimer’s Association, which is great because we need the research, but the reality is, give some time to the people who need your help.”
Ward says his father’s diagnosis came after a few years of forgetfulness and confusion, but getting an answer doesn’t help stem the hurt from seeing him struggle with simple tasks. His father couldn’t remember how to get to his son’s house or identify north and other directions, which was concerning because he had a past as a Boy Scout.
Ward linked “A Christmas Story” with this struggle, saying he played a bully in the film, but to him, Alzheimer’s is the worst bully.
He told News 5 Cleveland, “Now, he’s at a state where if he has a clothes hanger and a shirt, he doesn’t know how to put them together. It’s heartbreaking. Not everybody has a family that supports like mine did. People need help and [the Alzheimer’s Association] can help you. It sucks in so many ways, especially with Christmas. It’s a time where families need to help each other. It’s been really hard and I feel for him. It’s hard. It’s really hard. But families stick together through the hard times like the Christmas Story.”
Ward said that the film sees everything go wrong, but when the family is together in the end, that’s the important thing.
In a blog for the Alzheimer’s Association, he reminded caregivers to be kind to their loved ones and also to themselves while they deal with this diagnosis.
His goal is to continue to make his father smile and laugh and to be proud of the decisions his family is making on their father’s behalf.
Liv Passe, development manager for the Cleveland chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, says Ward’s story has been helpful to other families in similar situations.
“You can see that it is not an easy journey for anyone involved, those that are diagnosed or the caregiver. With [Ward] opening up, we hope we can continue to spread awareness.”Whizzco