Dealing with any type of illness, physical or mental, has to be a difficult project for a writer–because there is no way that a good writer can avoid becoming emotionally involved in the subject he or she is researching and writing about.
The writer tries to play the observer, objective and untouched, but writers are much closer to actors than you may think. Like actors, writers absorb and breathe in the low and the high points of whatever they’re working on. And the “whatever,” seeps into the skin, the heart, and the mind.
El Granada author Gail Holland ([email protected]) took on a very difficult subject in 1985 when she wrote: “For Sasha with Love: An Alzheimer’s Crusade,” the tragic story of the elegant San Franciscan Anne Bashkiroff, whose husband, Sasha, was suddenly crippled with incurable Alzheimers. Anne and Sasha, originally from Russia, had been very much in love.
In the 1980s when Gail wrote “For Sasha with Love,” finding help, resources, and any kind of support for victims of Alzheimers was nearly impossible. Institutions refused patients with the condition. It was a dead-end, a life sentence.
We can thank Anne Bashkiroff for founding the “Family Survival Project, ” now called “Family Caregiver Alliance,” which helped bring Alzheimers into public consciousness– and the insightful writer Gail Holland for telling us the whole story, sparing no details.
For today we know the parameters of this crippling disease– and the desperation of those who live with loved ones that have lost their faculties. In fact, Alzheimers victims frequently have lost their entire life’s history, as if the memory disk has been accidentally erased or wiped clean.
I’ve known Gail Holland for many, many years and I remember attending the “For Sasha, with Love” booksigning. I was proud to get both Gail’s and Anne’s autograph. Anne Bashkiroff was both beautiful and a woman with a presence.
Publication of the book attracted a lot of attention. The book was reprinted in 2007 by Purdue University Press with a new title: “Forget-Me-Not,” including updated information on caregiving.
When I met Gail, who has a charming English accent, she was working at the San Francisco Examiner, writing long feature articles. On one occasion she shared her bound collection of newspaper stories and I was envious of her talents. She was and remains a “hot” writer. Continue reading “Gail Holland: It Takes a Real Writer….”