The casino was not my destination of choice. When my brother, Dewayne, called and asked if I wanted to take my parents to their favorite casino with his wife on my paid holiday off, I have to admit, I sort of cringed. I thought about the day and how it would be used up doing something that I normally don’t do. It would be about someone else. They were plans made by someone else.

My life is a lot about other people. Plans are made for me a lot. Things are expected of me. And then there’s the job, you know, the “9 to 5”. Actually, my job is 9 to 4, but regardless, it is not really a place I “choose” to go, per se. It is a place I have to go, so I can pay my bills. This makes days that I don’t have to go there very special. They are my freedom days. So when Dewayne asked if I wanted to go to the casino on Columbus Day, my first answer was, “NO!”

“Really?” was his reply. “You don’t like to go to the casino?”

“Well, when I go to the casino, I lose money,” I said, “and we have been trying to not spend money. You know – Mike has us on “budget cuts.”

I quickly rethought the whole thing. I thought of my parents, and how this would give me an opportunity to spend time with them doing something other than sit on their porch. And my dad had had a few health scares lately; maybe they would like the security of having my sister-in-law and myself there with them. Maybe Dad would like to show me around, etc.

Finally, I conceded. Yes, I would go to the casino on my day off.

Whenever the dread of the day would haunt me, I would think of my mother, and all the times she made sacrifices and went places or did things for other people, and she would say she ended up having a really good time. And really, she has a pretty good life. So it couldn’t be all bad, right?

The departure time was set for 8am. Just like going to work, I thought. But that works. You know? A schedule I am used to. Be there at 8. It could have been worse, like be there at 6am. My body would be happy not to adjust to another schedule.

We met at Dad and Mom’s, which is conveniently next door to my house, and were on the road, Dad at the wheel, by 8:30. We stopped once for a potty break, which worked great for me, as well.

At the casino, we entered the big glass doors and were immediately assaulted with the noise. I told my dad this would be a place where being hard of hearing would be a good thing. He laughed, and I did wonder if he even heard the noise, as he was not wearing his hearing aides.

Dad led the way to the roulette wheel, all virtual, no real dealers. We each chose a stool, and Dad proceeded to feed his money into my machine. Inside I was panicking. How was I ever going to pay this all back? I took a deep breath and told myself it didn’t matter. I would pay him back a little at a time, and it was worth it, right? Worth it to spend the day with my dad.

Dad led me in his methods. Play this much here, this much there, etc. He trained me on when to fight the board and when to follow it. And I watched as it didn’t work. My credit balance fell lower and lower. I found myself asking God to help me win. Help me win for Dad. I wanted him to feel happy, and I knew that would make him happy. Finally, my balance dropped to zero, and I pulled my one and only fifty-dollar bill from my wallet. So much for budget cuts, I thought. Okay, some things are worth breaking the budget for, right? Like DAD! He is worth breaking the budget, I mean, it is only money!! I watched the machine hungrily eat that bill. By now, Dad was looking disgusted and rather solemn. I tried to make light of it, joked with him about it, and proceeded to lose another $6. Mom and Julie, my sister-in-law had long since tired of the losing game, and had gone elsewhere to try their luck at other games. 

It was about this time that Mom arrived with Julie by her side and told us it was time to break for lunch. The casino had a wonderful buffet with a variety of choices. We ate heartily, and I had a wonderful cup of coffee with half-and-half. (Coffee is almost as good as butter.) When we headed back to smoke and noise, Dad said he was going to play some craps. Mom agreed, she wanted to, too. Craps was a whole nuther game, and I just didn’t feel up to learning that. So Julie and I headed back to the vulterous roulette wheel, this time choosing another wheel – one that showed it had been hitting the zeros, Julie’s favorite. It turned out that it really was an omen, all those zeros on the board, because Julie and I started gaining back our losses.

The problem is that when you are winning, you get so excited. My heart was beating so rapidly in my chest. It was like being seven years old on Christmas morning! I felt like dancing around. I felt alive and excited and like life was treating me right!! Zero! Yay! I just won $18!! Soon, my $44 credit was up to $246! But did I stop? Oh, hell, no!!! I kept going. You know the saying, “what goes up, must come down”? Well, sure enough, I made my descent. It was sad. I should have stopped while I was ahead!– and I had to wonder how many other people, who have sat on those high stools, have uttered those very words!

Finally, when my credit hit $100, I said, “Okay, I’m cashing out.” I wanted to have something to give back to my dad. (Although, he was clearly not concerned.) Julie agreed, and she, too, cashed out, as she wished she would have just stopped while she was ahead.

We walked out with laughter in our hearts, though. We had had a wonderful time. And we had a story to tell. 

As we drove home, I saw the signs of the stores passing us by, and reality started to return. I realized that casinos are like some other world. I really felt I had stepped off my planet and onto another for a while. It was a nice reprieve. And yes, the return was good, too! It felt good to be back. I’ve decided that gambling is like a roller coaster ride. It gets your heart pumping, and you feel a childish excitement, and then, it stops. You get off the ride, and you walk away with a smile on your face. I’m glad I went. I really get it now. I get my dad, and why he likes to go there. And you know, I think I’ll take him again!


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