Saturday, my wife and I saw Bad Times at the El Royale. It was a fantastic movie. If I were still doing reviews, I’d have given it 9.3 bi-state establishments out of 10. Seriously, it was that good. It made me laugh. It made me jump in fear. It also made me cry. Quite a bit, actually.
Without giving too much away, there’s a character in the film with dementia, pretty bad dementia. It’s not like it affects the plot all too much, but it does play a role in the character and their motivations throughout the film. When the movie does its little flashback dance and sends you back in time to see the character develop, you get to watch their mind slowly slip away.
And it’s fucking emotional, man. They do such a good job making you care about these characters. They teach you about them, make you feel their pain. It really made me think about my own life and my own family. My granddad (on my dad’s side) has had dementia for probably the last ten years, to varying degrees. It’s just gotten worse and worse, and it’s been difficult to see someone you care about slowly turn into someone else.
I guess that’s why I got so emotional during the movie. It gave me a glimpse into the other side, into the person fighting mental and cognitive decline, instead of my own view. It was hard, it really was, and it was hard seeing my granddad last night after thinking about the character in the film. What does it feel like? How frustrating must it be to know you’re not ‘there,’ to watch yourself slowly become someone else? He’s said it before to us: “You must all think I’m going crazy.” And, reassuringly, we all said ‘No.’ But I don’t know who we were trying to reassure, him, or us.
Possibly the most difficult thing to think about is the possibility of it happening to my father, or hell, to me. It’s such a dangerous thing, but you can’t do anything but sit there and wait for it to happen. You can try and try as hard as you can, but if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. People around me will watch me slip away. I won’t be myself anymore. And just like my granddad, my wife will be left there to take care of me and pick up the pieces of what I once was.
I’m saying it like he’s not here any more, like it’s not him. I know it’s him. I know he’s still in there, that he’s still the same person. We still joke and he still tells me there’s sodas out in the fridge if I want one (I haven’t drank soda for 27 years). But increasingly there are times when I look over at him and see him staring at me, or at my dad, grandma, or my mom, with look of confusion, of fear, and of sadness. He doesn’t know what’s going on, where he is, or who he is.
And the fact that that could happen to me fucking terrifies me.