This trip would never have happened if Tom were alive. We held this town in equally low regard and our combined resolve was to never again set foot in sin city despite the fact that my brother, sister and sister-in-law think it is a hoot and make an annual sibling pilgrimage.
This year my spring break week was alarmingly plan-less so I told my siblings that if they were willing to accommodate my schedule I’d join them. They were and I did.
Las Vegas is a place unlike any other— a mirage in the desert, an environmental disaster with cheap housing and plentiful jobs despite the alleged struggles of the casinos. The place is jam-packed with people—conventions, bridal parties and assorted tourists from all over the globe. There is wretched excess everywhere you turn. Beautiful marble hotels with ornate lobbies, top-end spas, luxury shopping and world-class restaurants. There is faux Paris, faux Venice and every conceivable type of entertainment.
I am not a gambler and even after a careful search by my sister for the most action-packed, appealing and low minimum slot machine, I still find the whole thing much less fun than the only video game I’ve ever played—Pac-Man—where at least you get to do something to win besides mindlessly push a button. And the smoke was choking. At the pool I took to asking people just about to plop down in the chair next to me if they were by any chance planning to light up a stogie. I was only pretending it was a joke. I would actually have smacked them with my sunscreen if they had.
I heard German, French, Spanish and a handful of unidentifiable languages over the weekend including lyrics to the songs in “O”, The Cirque de Soleil water spectacular. Yes, for the price I would still have preferred Broadway, but I have not sat under a cloudless sky and baked in the sun (with or without my precious siblings) in New York since, well—EVER. It’s funny how quickly humans adapt to new environs. After having great difficulty finding a chair poolside on my first day, I realized it was like many resorts where the early bird gets the worm. By Day 3 I had figured out that not only did these clever folks arrive at the opening bell, they also by-passed the towel stand and headed straight for the sunny chairs. The tawny skinned German girl next to me said she had learned that trick in Turkey.
In any case, the highlight of the Vegas experience for me was sharing meals and laughs and good conversation with my siblings. A friend once opined that the decade between 70 and 80 is the last really good one for many people. By 80 things just start to go wrong in one way or another. Something hurts or something happens to compromise mobility or lucidity or freedom and life changes. This means that with siblings who are 8 and 11 years my senior there is no time to waste. I want to have quality time with these wonderful people while we are all healthy and mobile and that may mean ignoring the advice of the very nice folks helping me with retirement planning who basically want me to work until I drop dead. My dad was a decade older than his only sibling and although they were not close growing up, they had wonderful adventures together in their senior years. I know people who are only children, people who have scarily dysfunctional siblings, people who don’t speak to their brothers and sisters for various reasons. I am lucky enough to have a brother and sister whom I love very much and want to spend time with.
We made a tentative travel plan for a 2017 river cruise but with some trepidation. After our mom died in 2012 we agreed to take a sibling trip in her memory, but our oldest brother became too ill to travel. Following his death from cancer we agreed to try another sibling trip along with my new husband, but almost as soon as it was booked he, too, was diagnosed with cancer and died the very week the trip was to have taken place. So it takes more than a little faith for the remaining sibs and spouse to try again. But try we will—budgets and competing priorities be damned. We made it through an MSU game in the pouring rain and we had a great time on dry land in Vegas so we are going to beat the odds and head for Budapest. Ann will drag Dick through castles and museums against his will, Pat will window shop as a substitute for gambling fun and I will eat too much, watch the beautiful scenery go by, miss my child for 8 days and feel the tension of wanting to be in two places/ two generations at once, a little like the author of The Middle Place. But these are golden worries—having so many people you love and want to spend time with that you are forever juggling.
I am leaving Las Vegas with no gambling winnings, a modest tan and a heart full of gratitude that my parents stocked my litter with such cool people. I might even come back to sin city– just to see them.