My grandfather – my mother’s father – died earlier this year. I saw him once, weeks before. He seemed happy enough, in a way, but much-reduced. Dementia wastes away at the body as equally as the mind. The medication was slowly withdrawn, over those last days: there was no cure, and awareness of his own condition would not have helped either him or those left behind.
At his peak, and even after that, he was an ox. He drowned, once, about fifteen years ago; his heart stopped and he had to be revived there on the pier. The CPR was so strong it broke his sternum, but he woke up. His pipe was not so lucky and sunk to the bottom of the harbour; he never smoked again, after that.
I remember him as a vibrant, strong and expressive man. Even as a child I knew he was flawed, but I admired something about him regardless. He was a storyteller, war hero and, undeniably, a crotchety old bugger. He will be missed.