My mom and dad are two of the most wholesome, decent, and down-to-earth people I know. It is these qualities that make their visits such a pleasure. They just left after a two-week visit where they met Baby A and doted on her and gave K and I some much-needed relief and support. My parents are also very "low-maintenance" guests--it really doesn't take much to entertain them. Cook a great meal, take a drive to the local DQ and spend the other 22 hours a day holding their new granddaughter and they are set. Well, at least that was the case for my dad. My mom, however, yearned for something more.
I live 20 minutes away from a casino, and my mom could smell it the moment she got off the plane. This facet of my mom's character comes as a bit of a surprise. You wouldn't expect my mom jean wearin' mom to have a lust for luck. This is, after all, a 63 year-old woman who just bought her first pair of black underwear six months ago on a "crazy" shopping impulse with her daughters. She showed me said underwear as she unpacked her suitcase, noting that she didn't wear them on the plane. God forbid something would happen and the emergency room staff would wonder what kind of whore-granny wears black underwear? This is also the same woman who had to be medicated to relax enough to drink out of the same glass as her kids because you never know what kind of infections her dirty little spawns carry around in their mouths. This is not a woman who leaves things to chance. And yet, she loves to play the slots. The penny slots, mind you, but a gambler all the same.
We were not 2 miles from the airport before my mom caught my eye in the rearview mirror and mouthed the words, "Are we going to the casino?" with a huge grin on her face. She had to mouth it because she knew she was taking a bigger risk than "put it all on black" by mentioning this pernicious activity in my dad's presence when they were supposed to be here to see their grandchild. My mom's love of gambling is a source of tension in their marriage. Not because she has ever bet the farm (she literally plays the penny slots), but because they have morally disparate views on games of chance. My dad's faith frowns on playing any games of chance--cards, gambling, the lottery--because of his church's doctrine on the value of work and the idea that you should not speculate on getting something for nothing. But, in the game of love that landed him married to a casino-loving Catholic, "Love thy wife" trumps their disagreement over gambling. So, on any trip where they are within an hour's drive of a casino, my dad follows my mom around the non-smoking slot machine area, standing just behind her like a Mafia heavy, counting the minutes until he can lure her to the buffet.
We made her wait a whole week before our first trip so she practically ran across the parking lot when we finally pulled up to the gaming resort. My dad rolled his eyes and settled in beside her for an afternoon of stoic loyalty. She took her $30 plus another $20 that she swindled from Dad and set to work milking the machines for all the pennies they were worth. Three hours later, she was up $40 after paying her bookie-husband back the $20 loan and had her fix for the moment. The next week was spent helping me spring clean, organize my kitchen cabinets washing baby clothes, and spending time with the baby. To the outside world she looked like an industrious grandma, puttering around and doing all the little things that would make life easier for her grad-student daughter. But I could sense her inner struggle. All the busy work was just like a smoker wearing the patch--it was helping her cope with her casino craving until the next trip.
It was mid-week before she began asking if it would be possible to go again, and I really wanted to make time to take her again because she had done an awful lot and really doesn't ask for much. As I looked at my calendar, however, it was hard to see where I would have time. She peered over my shoulder as I scanned my planner, thinking outloud,
"Let's see...I have class all morning Thursday, an all-day commitment Saturday....hmm...maybe Friday afternoon?"
(she was literally holding her breath at this point)
"No, darn it, Baby A's vaccinations are scheduled for that day."
And then it happened. I turned around and looked my mother in the eye. I knew what she was thinking. Her eyes were begging me to do what her mouth could not utter. I said, "Mom, you want me to reschedule my daughter's vaccinations from potentially life-threatining viruses so you can go to a casino?" She emphatically said, "No! No!" and then paused while we locked eyes for another second and I said, "I'll see what I can do but you know I already told Dad about the doctor's appointment." Fear registered in her eyes as she calculated the odds of looking like a bad granny. Calling upon my years of codependent behavior, I told her I would take care of it. I made a call and rescheduled the vaccination appointment for the following week, arranged a babysitter, and then casually mentioned to dad that I had rescheduled Baby A's shots for after they were gone so they wouldn't have to spend their last days with her being fussy and possibly sick.
That Friday, my mom and I hopped in the car, just the two of us, while K was at work and my dad stayed behind to do his laundry and begin packing for their departure two days later. I dropped her off at the slot machines and then settled in at the snack bar with my own addiction--a vente latte--to wait until she had another fix.