It began with what she saw in the bathroom mirror. On a dull morning, Geri Taylor padded into the shiny bathroom of her Manhattan apartment. She casually checked her reflection in the mirror, doing her daily inventory. Immediately, she stiffened with fright.
She didn't recognize herself.
She gazed saucer-eyed at her image, thinking: Oh, is this what I look like? No, that's not me. Who's that in my mirror?
This was in late 2012. She was 69, in her early months getting familiar with retirement. For some time she had experienced the sensation of clouds coming over her, mantling thought. There had been a few hiccups at her job. She had been a nurse who climbed the rungs to health care executive. Once, she was leading a staff meeting when she had no idea what she was talking about, her mind like a stalled engine that wouldn't turn over.
"Fortunately I was the boss and I just said, 'Enough of that; Sally, tell me what you're up to,'" she would say of the episode.
Certain mundane tasks stumped her. She told her husband, Jim Taylor, that the blind in the bedroom was broken. He showed her she was pulling the wrong cord. Kept happening. Finally, nothing else working, he scribbled on the adjacent wall which cord was which.
Then there was the day she got off the subway at 14th Street and Seventh Avenue unable to figure out why she was there.
So, yes, she had had inklings that something was going wrong with her mind. She held tight to these thoughts. She even hid her suspicions from Mr. Taylor, who chalked up her thinning memory to the infirmities of age. "I thought she was getting like me," he said. "I had been forgetful for 10 years."
But to not recognize her own face! To Ms. Taylor, this was the "drop-dead moment" when she had to accept a terrible truth. She wasn't just seeing the twitches of aging but the early fumes of the disease.
She had no further issues with mirrors, but there was no ignoring that something important had happened. She confided her fears to her husband and made an appointment with a neurologist. "Before then I thought I could fake it," she would explain. "This convinced me I had to come clean."