One of the changes that has taken place as we have moved through this ongoing journey with TB the Elder and Mom is the fact that visitation times move, not derived by anything other than climate. Earlier in the year, it is too hot beyond the morning to visit outside; in the Autumn, one now goes later to avoid it being too cool.
As it turned out, my sister had pulled up just before I got there and was already settling the chairs it. It is always nice when someone else is there, as it helps to move the conversation along if it stalls.
My mother almost recognizes me when they escort her out - "That is my..." "Son", I helpfully interject before she lost the thought or confused me for someone else. "And your daughter" my sister chimes in. They bring my father out as well, wearing a stretch knit cap for the cold - this is the first time I can remember in 45 years I have seen him in one.
The conversation is the same as it always is. I let them know how the family is doing, show them pictures of The Ravishing Mrs. TB and Nighean Gheal fresh off their latest adventures. I have no idea if they actually grasp where they have been, but they always act like they know. They ask after the other two as well, and I remind them they are still in school and so cannot get away as easily.
TB The Elder seems more engaged than he sometimes does, asking a couple of questions which I have to interpret to get the answer for: In one, he seems to be asking about mileage for the car I drove in (their old car, but they do not recognize it as such) and in the other, asking about the change in weather. If those are not his questions, the answers seem to satisfy him enough.
We talk about the weather and how it is getting colder. They ask about work and we let them know it is Sunday and we are both off.
At one point my father gets up and starts walking around the walkway towards the far end of the patio. My sister and I look at each other - he is really not supposed to be walking on his own without help - and then I spring up to walk around or beside him. He clearly does not want help, so I am nervously walking to one side, trying to keep my attention on where he stepping and my arms out in case I have to leap to catch him one direction or the other. He, however, seems to have not such doubts and continues straight on to the end of the walkway, making the corner, and getting to the end where the gate is. He pulls on the lock for a moment and and then asks me something. Again, interpretation: "No Dad, I do not have the key". He pulls on it a few more times, rattles the gate, and then turns around and then starts the slow shuffle back to where we were sitting. Again, I am trying to anticipate the fall I think will come but he makes his way back into his seat without incident.
He has never tried to "escape" before. That is new.
He does seem more "there" than some of the other visits we have had. The fact that the Dodgers beat the Giants brings out a laugh in him (he is a lifelong Dodger fan). And his questions, while not completely understandable, are understandable enough that I can supply the answer.
Visits are usually about 30 minutes or so, and this one is no different. My sister goes to get help to bring them back in: first goes my mother, and then they come for my father. They always seem to be able to get him inside with the promise of a snack: ice cream, popcorn, something. He jokes with them in a way like he used to joke with others; they seem fond of him for that.
This was a better visit than some; my sister and I keep trying to analyze when we come and their reaction to assess if there is some common denominator (time, post meal, something) that makes them more "conversational".
It may be nothing but chance of course, but the more pleasant visits make the time go better. And one leaves feeling more uplifted than saddened.