I just got back from a trip to Las Vegas with my parents. When my dad was diagnosed with cancer he expressed that he really wanted to make this trip that they had been planning as he thought it would be his last. Even though my brother was going with them, I decided to go to help with stuff like mom going to the bathroom and just getting around.
We brought a transport chair for mom. This is different from a wheel chair in that the person cannot move the wheels themselves and it’s lightweight and made for travelling. She’s been using a walker, but getting around from hotel to hotel and around the casinos would be too much for her.
We stayed at the Main Street Station, a hotel in downtown Las Vegas. It is one of the Boyd properties. The Boyd family has made a niche in Vegas by marketing their properties to people from Hawaii. I’m not sure if this is true, but my brother says that there are 35,000 people from Hawaii at any given time in Vegas. I’ve never really been able to understand why this city is so popular with people from Hawaii. The California Hotel, another Boyd hotel, is full of people from Hawaii. The menu in their coffee shop consists of local favorites like saimin, oxtail soup and Spam. Cheap packages are marketed through their travel company, Vacations Hawaii. My package was $650 and included roundtrip airfare, four nights in the lovely Main Street Station, transportation to and from the airport and meal tickets that can be used at any of the Boyd hotels.
I find downtown really depressing. Strip clubs, old casinos and hotels – charming? Maybe. People don’t look particularly alive as they sit staring at a slot machine or a game of video poker. Even at the "live" games such as black jack, poker and craps people didn’t seem happy or sad or alive. Judging…judging. That’s what I did.
Why are these people here? Do they hope that today, on this trip they will win the "big one?" My parents have been coming here a few times a year. They aren’t big gamblers. They are extremely conservative with their money and would never gamble away their house or anything close to that. They bring a set amount of money that they are prepared to lose. Safe. Maybe they’ll win…that would be good. But if they lose, that’s okay, too.
My Uncle Hitoshi and Auntie Dot drive from Huntington Beach to meet my parents. This time because of dad’s diagnosis, Uncle Taka and Auntie Leatrice from Sierra Madre and my cousin, Tracy and her husband, Rob from Oceanside drove up. The aunties stayed with mom and helped her play video poker. She has a hard time figuring out what button to press, but they are so patient with her. Uncle Hitoshi kind of herds the pack around. He leads and gives directions as my brother drives. I’m not sure how he makes it there from California as he is blind in one eye and partially blind in the other…still driving. Uncle Taka is a regular at the California Hotel and gets us reservations and special comps for dinner and breakfast.
It felt good to be surrounded by and supported by family. I am so grateful for my dad’s family. His brothers are like him…good natured, helpful, unconditionally supportive. Their wives are cheerful bright and healthy. Auntie Dot was a nurse and she helped a lot. Auntie Leatrice was a teacher so her patience with mom on the machines taught me a lot.
I loved spending time with my brother, Keith. He’s a typical Aragaki guy. Like my dad and uncles, he’s just a good guy. My grandfather was like that. He got sick on the third night and went to his room without eating dinner. My brother is all about food so I knew that he really felt bad. Not this! I was worried and scared that night and the next day when he didn’t get out of bed. He couldn’t eat and thought he wouldn’t be able to make the plane ride home. Luckily, he felt better…enough to come home with us. He leaned on the seat in front of him for most of the ride so I knew he wasn’t feeling well. He’s okay now.
The hardest thing was watching my dad struggle. He had no energy and just plain didn’t feel good. His appetite is gone. I bought him power bars to eat between meals because he definitely wasn’t getting enough food. No matter how he felt, he joined us for every meal and every outing. He napped with mom in between.
We returned home on Wednesday and yesterday he had a port "installed" for his chemo treatments. Today we’re meeting with his oncologist and chemo begins on Monday. I’m just hoping that he responds to treatment…that the chemo will shrink the cancer cells so that he’ll feel better. It’s a journey our family is making together. I’m trying to take one step at a time…not looking too far ahead.
The interesting thing that has happened is that my feelings are right there on the surface. The feelings well up when I see my dad struggle to move or my mom struggle to remember. The feelings also well up when I see a beautiful sky or notice the trees and mountains. Interesting life is.