We went to see George in the hospital tonight, where he is recovering from surgery. Visiting hours are from 9 to 9:30, so we left the house around 8 for the trip to Oak Ridge.
We stepped out the door into the beginnings of a storm. The air was grumbling, the sky dripping here and there. We headed south on Chapman on our way to Pellissippi Parkway. The rain came hard on John Sevier, but as we approached Pellissippi, we came out of it, into thick gray air hanging over darkened land, and then finally into lighter sky with swollen, spreading clouds lit from above.
At the hospital, a doctor noticed confusion on our faces. He asked us where we needed to go and gave good directions. We had to wait five minutes for the visiting hour to start, but then we found George awake in his bed, holding brown socks and a teddy bear in his lap. He knew us right away, but the medicine he’s taking is tinkering with his mind. He kept thinking he was in Chattanooga and then remembering he was actually in Oak Ridge. He’s having visions, of his mother, who passed away many years ago, sitting nearby and of a beautiful, gaunt, young woman, with a nice shape. This woman has dark brown hair and wears a brown dress of crinkled Chinese silk. She stands and the foot of his bed. He also sees animals around the room, sketched animals (like David would draw, he says), not real ones. The nurse seems to like him and his vocabulary. He described his drug-induced behavior as ghastly, and she said that was a good word. She stroked his hand as they talked. He wants us to bring more art cards like the one we gave him tonight the next time we come. He kissed our hands before we left.
Pellissippi was not the quick way back. Water drenched the whole drive home, so loud we couldn’t hear thunder, forcing cars to creep. Brake lights pressed on and off. A pond on the north bound side of Alcoa Highway, warded by flashing blue and red lights and a policeman in a yellow raincoat, slowed down the drive even more. I watched muddy water, shiny with reflected light, rushing in the ditch while we waited for the traffic ahead to clear. The sky pulsed on and off with jagged light, and now the clocks at home are pulsing their numbers. I can still hear the storm in the distance and the drops left behind falling from the gutters and the hemlock outside the bedroom window.