Mamas have a mind of their own, and this 75-year-old mama flew hundreds of miles with the express intent to gamble. She made me call her Trudy and swore that eight days in the Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas was the remedy for her achin' bones.
"I'm not coming out til Saturday," she gleefully squeeled. "And don't worry about lookin' for me. You'll hear me. I play hard and I play loud. Everyone will know that Trudy is a-winnin' and she's a-winnin' big."
I met Trudy at the Las Vegas airport.
"Have you seen my bag?" she asked. "It looks just like this one I'm carrying. Beautiful, colorful flowers. It arrived four days ago. I sent it ahead of me." I encouraged her to speak with the airline baggage claim agent who took down her information and began investigating further. When we found her bag on the conveyor belt, this was the first sign to me that something might be amiss in her story.
It was then that she glanced at me more intently and inquired, "Don't you remember me? I just know we have met before.... I am hard to forget you know," she said with a chuckle.
With our bags in tow, we discovered that we were both going to the Bellagio, so we hopped a cab together.
"Did you say you were from Croatia?" Trudy asked the taxi driver. "Well, you must remember me from last year! I rode in your cab! Las Vegas sure does have a small town feel."
"Look at this package deal they gave me," she said as she thrust a huge envelope into my hand. "I was here last year, you know. Brought a friend, all expenses paid. Will never do that again. She was dead weight to me. Now they are giving me three free nights. Like I said, I'm playin' big this week, goin' for broke!"
"Yes, I have children. You call them a blessing. Well, let's double your blessing--I'll give you all four of mine! Yes, I have grandchildren. Could go my life without seeing them again. Who? My husband? He died ten years ago... or was it five? I do miss him from time to time, but he never liked to gamble; and for me, hittin' the tables kills the pain."
Trudy claimed to be "something close to a Christian, just one who tends to let it ride."
"Hello! Do you remember me?" Trudy enthusiastically asked a Bellagio front desk clerk. "I was just here last year!"
"Why, no, ma'am. I have only worked here for three months."
"Hello! I remember you! Don't you remember me?" Trudy giddishly asked a gentleman at the roulette table as we made our way through the smoky casino. "Surely, surely you remember me! I'm Trudy!
"Come back to see me later," the stranger said with a half smile and a wink to me.
"I always win big at the slots," Trudy retorted over her shoulder.
When we arrived at the elevators, she nervously grabbed my arm. "Say. Do you remember what floor I am on?"
"Was it the eleventh floor, Miss Trudy? Or maybe the tenth? I'm sorry. Can you find your door key? It should be labeled there."
She slowly fumbled for her wallet. "Why, it's not here. I know I put it here. I just know I put it here."
"Perhaps you stuck it in your other bag."
"Oh, yes. Is this it? What does it say?"
"Number 1025. You are on the 10th floor, Room 25," I said loudly and clearly. Do you want me to come with you? Are you sure you're going to be okay, Miss Trudy?"
"Of course. This is home to me. I want to buy you dinner. Won't you meet me tonight for dinner?"
I never saw Miss Trudy again, though the Lord knows I repeatedly looked for her amidst hundreds and hundreds of gamblers at all hours of the day and night while I was there. For some reason, her room number slipped from my mind. I regretted not taking her phone number. I even wished I had contacted her children. I worried that she suffered from dementia and would be taken advantage of in that casino. How on earth did she get here from Atlanta? Was she really from Atlanta?
She seemed tough as nails yet tender as a blade of grass. An elderly woman with a heart that longed to be remembered. Crotchety but thoughtful. Forgetful yet alert.
Did I miss a moment in time, Lord? What should I have done? Was I more concerned about my own agenda than a listless woman in need? Did I miss an opportunity to speak Truth into her life? Was I the one who let it ride?
She wants to be remembered, Lord.
Her name is Trudy.
Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up Your hand. Do not forget the afflicted.
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