One of the things I make a habit of making sure that happens when I am here at The Ranch is touching bases with The Cowboy, the gentleman who (with his son) keeps the cattle at here that you occasionally see pictures of. He has been a lifelong resident of the area and has kept his cattle here - I have no idea, twenty years? He is just one of those genuinely good people that loves being here as much as my father did and literally cares for the place as if it was his own. He and his son have complete run of the property and barn and do a lot of things, especially in the last few years, that my father could not: bring down trees, makes sure fences are repaired, and odds and ends sort of repairs that I suspect every property needs.
Every morning - especially before The Plague - he and a group of regulars used to meet with my father for coffee in the small local coffee shop (there is only one) and even after that, made sure that they had coffee once or twice a week down at the barn. Mostly, I suspect, for my father.
I always try to update him when we are speaking about how my father is doing. He has generously over the past 6 months visited my father several times for which my sister and I are grateful. It was easier, of course, in April before the second stroke happened, but he has still persevered over the last few months.
"I have not been done lately" he mentioned. "It is hard."
I told him I completely understood.
I and my sister have both have no expectations about anyone else stopping by to see my parents. We, more than anyone else, understand how difficult it will be - and that is for us as children. For some of their friends, they have known them seventy or eighty years. We have, in a sense, had a front row street to the past five years. If you did not know, it would be very difficult indeed.
My parents managed it well, right up to the end in that regard. They seldom went anywhere novel and when in familiar settings, one might not have known things were awry. Certainly their friends knew my mother had memory issues, although I doubt any of them knew to what extent. She had been getting quieter over the years, so it might not have seemed unusual - and my father was able to fill the gap.
There is small group that we check in with on a periodic basis, just to let them know how my parents are doing. They are always glad to hear, of course. Some of them will say they should stop by and see them soon. I nod silently, knowing their hearts are in the right place, even as I know most of them themselves are at a place and point where much travel is difficult at all. Especially travel for a visit like this.
My Uncle - my mother's brother, now senior family member of both our small branch and the larger branch of this side of family, confessed to me that he simply did not have strength to see my mother - not the physical strength, but the metal strength. He wondered how my sister and I do it.
I told him what I tell everyone - of course while I am sure at some level my parents are glad to see people, it will never be the same in that sense. I can only imagine the levels of pain such a visit would invoke in people, levels of pain that I am sure neither of my parents would want inflicted on anyone. For my sister and I and for our families, it is something we have managed and lived with for a while now. I can visit my parents and take in the visit with the knowledge that they are glad to see me (they always are), but also with the knowledge that the visit is really more about our presence than an actual exchange of communication. My father may remember we have come; my mother will never do so again.
At some meaningful point, these sorts of visits may become the equivalents of the visits to a gravesite, something that we find is ultimately more for ourselves than for the others. We may find ourselves grounded or uplifted by the visits; they indeed uplifted by the visits as well, but not nearly in a way that has more than a passing impact.