My grandfather lived eighteen months after my grandmother died of bone cancer. He spent the last 18 months of his life wasting away in the Retirement Inn in Dallas, Texas. My mother used to drop me off there to spend the day with him every Saturday and sometimes on Sunday. I was a sophomore in high school. I don't know if my mother really understood how bad things were getting or how much care he required. I used to help him take a shower. First I'd help him take his clothes off, then I'd walk him to the shower, then I'd stand there while he stood under the water, and then finally I'd help him towel off. He needed help with all this because he'd had a stroke and couldn't really lift his arms above his shoulders. I helped him to to the bathroom, too. Sometimes if he was really tired or was having issues with his arms, I'd wipe him.
I don't remember when, exactly, that the dementia hit him. But it got steadily worse during his last six months. Sometimes he couldn't remember my name. Other times he'd call me Jake, which was the name of one of his brothers. And there were a few times when I knew that he had totally forgotten who I was, and was pretending he remembered because he didn't want to be rude. Grandpa was a gentleman that way.
Matt Zoller Seitz
Film critic and filmmaker.