The Gene Guillotine: An Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Memoir   Buy Book   

Book Excerpts

I am choosing to share intimate personal experiences with you which are not normally disclosed. Please allow others with genetic disease in their families to continue with their private lives. Please see Genetic Etiquette.

Excerpt ~ Everyday Life.

Playing as a forward, I chase the ball into the other team’s penalty box at the Marin Women’s Soccer League tournament. Weightless, I run, half floating, as sweat trickles out of my pores. The other team’s center midfielder has passed it backwards to the fullback, and I follow to try and steal the ball or force a weak play. The powerful defendant nails the soccer ball; it would have traveled half the length of the field if it didn’t hit my noggin ten feet from her. Bam. The blast squarely smacks the side of my head, knocking my teeth together and sending me to the ground in a solid thud while the ball rockets back to the defendant.Tweet. The ref stops the game, seeing me fall in a heap. I crawl, shaking my head, and claw the soft spring dirt and tufts of grass. Regaining my vision, I push my teetering body up to stand. I wobble-jog to the edge of the field amid other players yelling “Stay down,” and “Are you okay?” In the background I hear a whisper, “Yeowch, that was a doozy.”
At the sideline, where we have two subs, I insist that I am fine and ask for my water bottle. If I take a break now, I will obsess over Alzheimer’s. Guzzling the cool liquid, I am aware how dangerous soccer can be, and possibly more so for me than the other players on this field. I have heard that heading the ball and any other head trauma is detrimental to people predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease. Unless I am within goal-scoring range, I avoid headers of my own volition. But inevitably, by being on the field, I still take whoppers. Replacing the black lid on my blue Nalgene, I toss it into my evergreen bag beyond the white chalk line.Turning to resume the game, I wonder if the sheer exhilaration of playing is worth the impact in the long run. Something comes alive in me when I play soccer. The sensation of ecstasy vibrates through my bones in ways that I feel only in the rare instances when my physical body is totally engrossed. This allows my mental hamster wheel to shut down, loosening the heavy burden. Shaking my throbbing head one more time, I attempt to stop the seepage of Alzheimer’s thoughts and hope my meditative zone will return once again.
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Excerpt ~ Broken Sunglasses.

Mom’s brisk walk leads her under the watchful eyes of Abe Lincoln, out of Lithia Park, past the steps leading to the Shakespeare Festival complex, and straight to the garbage can. Muttering angrily, she hurls the sunglasses into the wrought iron can.As she turns the corner toward the Ashland Bakery Café, I run to the can and lean over to extract the glasses. They fall apart in my hands; she must have twisted them, intentionally breaking them.

“Shit,” I say to myself before returning them to rest beside the rotting apple core. I dash after her.

Around the corner in the building’s shadow, I slide my sunglasses to the top of my head. Her nose tight to the window, Mom is looking at the pastries behind the counter.

Forcing a fresh, chipper “Hello, Mom,” as if it is a new day, I walk to her side.

“Mmmm,” she says, looking at the yummy treats.

“Which is your favorite?” I ask, already knowing she will choose a cinnamon roll.”A sticky bun, of course,” she says, nudging me forcefully with her elbow, throwing my body off balance. Stepping back to catch myself, I smile weakly at her. She looks at my eyes and then at the top of my head.

She brushes her hand over her hair and feels around her neck. “Where are my sunglasses?”

I pause before tentatively saying, “They had a scratch.”

“Well, it can’t be that bad. Let’s see them.”

“You broke them when you threw them away.”

“Oh.” She looks down at her toes, slack-jawed and ashamed. Then she looks up the street. Jaw clenched with renewed confidence, she insists, “Well, I need a new pair.” Shoving her hands into her pockets, she pushes off her toes, rocking to her heels; back and forth she sways, awaiting my answer, teetering on the edge of playfulness and anger.