The drive to Hospital City is a familiar one; because we are so well-acquainted with the route, the roads move swiftly beneath us and the cities and towns move by quickly. Further south, the cotton fields have been replanted; the soft, fuzzy green haze of the tender shoots sparkles bright against the rusty, dry autumn trees.
The day is all green, and gold and blue. The sky is a crystalline blue - edge to edge, horizon to horizon. The sun drapes itself over the landscape, embracing us in a soft, warm hug against the chilly air that will creep in as the darkness falls. It is a day made for driving; not too hot, not too cold. The air is clean, and clear, with just a hint here and there of the smells of autumn: leaves burning, the cidery smell of a grove of apple trees, the sharp tang of the piney woods.
The Twinkie sleeps, reads, plays her Gameboy DS. (Nintendogs - what else?) I don't even try the radio - nearly 12 years has taught me to bring my own music. Today, it is "Sparkling Smooth Jazz" found at SoundClick and loaded onto the MP3 player. It is the quintessential soundtrack for the day, light and crisp and bright.
This familiar drive is a contemplative time for me. My mind reels back through the last twelve years, and the nearly 130 times we have made the trip. There are changes since we first traveled these roads: The trees are taller, and the farmhouse with the red trim is gone, lost to a tornado that ripped through seven years ago. The road itself has shifted subtly as well - nearly half of the trip formerly was on narrow two-lane roads; today only about half of that remains two lanes wide, and even that has wide shoulders.
I think ahead as well. What will the future be like for Twinks? Will we have to continue to make this trip every six to eight weeks until she's eighteen? What will happen when she "graduates" from The Hospital when she's eighteen? Where will we ever find doctors as knowledgeable about her conditions?
We drive through the day, the sun dropping into the west all too quickly now. Shadows lengthen across the road, and the chill that was held at bay by the golden warmth of the autumn sun is coming on strong. As we get closer to Hospital City, The Twinkie slumbering behind me, I see Christmas lights on several houses glowing in the gathering twilight. Hospital City finally shines on the horizon, a welcome bright spot in the darkness. Across the city we travel, past the casinos that are wrapped in gaudy neon, past the shopping centers busy with Holiday customers trying to get ahead of the game, past the neighborhoods where the people of Hospital City live and work every day.
We are back again, at "our" little hotel. Back in the same room, eating the same dinner at the same steakhouse, greeting the same desk clerk. The routine, the familiarity, is comforting. It assures us that even though we are not home with The Wrench and The Kitties, we are home in another sense.
Tomorrow - new braces for The Twinkie, and the return trip home. And more time for me to think, another opportunity to mull over the future and the past.
Good night, Hospital City.