I have been remiss in updating on my parents - partially because of travel and partially because of seeing them during the travel.
It is colder where they live now, cold enough that being outside would be a bit of a challenge and due to the timing of the Grand Canyon Hike and having to come back to New Home, I forewent seeing them in November. However, December came soon enough and my sister was able to go with me. Also for the second visit, my brother-in-law came so we had yet another voice.
For both visits that bookended my trip (typically I fly out on Saturday and return on Saturday), we were able to sit inside, which has not happened in the 6 months or so they have been there. The second time, we had to wear masks, which was a bit of inconvenience but did not seem to impede our communication.
For both visits, we were able to speak little with TB The Elder. Apparently he has been having rough bouts of insomnia at night and so has been sleeping during the day. The first visit, they brought him out but within 5 minutes he was asleep in his chair; for the second, they suggested (and we agreed) that we just leave him sleeping in a recliner.
My mother, however, was awake and able to interact. She did recognize me both times as someone she knew (although again, I quickly intersperse "your son" before she struggles too much). We chatted a bit about my trip and I showed her some pictures of Costa Rica - mostly animals, since those are easy to relate to. We talked about The Ravishing Mrs. TB and Na Clann and how they were almost all done with school.
After that, conversation lagged a bit, so my sister and I (and my brother in law for the second one) just started talking. This is something we have learned to do if there is too much of a lull; my mother does not seem to mind but just listens in. I suppose in some ways we are not talking "to" her, but she is present for the conversation and, in some way, involved.
This is how the visits have run for the last few times: a short conversation, then we just start talking about life. I am not sure that my mother or my father really "understand", but perhaps at some level it is at least helpful in terms of another set of voices to listen to.
Before we left, we did speak with the owner and asked how my mother is doing. Okay, she said - she needs more help and encouragement with eating (my father, apparently, eats everything without question). Also, about two months ago they had asked my sister to start getting essentially adult "onesies" - they look like very fashionable sweat suits but zip up in the back to prevent them from taking them off. Originally this was because my mom tended to take her clothes off in the middle of the night; now it seems it is also related to taking her clothes off wherever she is and "using the facilities".
None of this is heartening of course, just as it is not surprising. There are no happy endings at this point; the curtain will fall, we just do not know when.
But that is as it is. For now - given these limitations - they seem to be doing well. They are certainly well cared for (and we are incredibly blessed that they are together and that we found this location, so close to my sister's house). And while I have every reason to believe that neither of them fully remember the last time that we visited, I take comfort in the fact that when we visit, we still seem to get a response.
Perhaps we cannot fend off the darkness, but we can still provide a candle.