Saturday was Robb’s birthday, so we went to Red Robin to celebrate and remember. Because Bottomless Root Beer Floats.
“We’re here to celebrate,” I told the waiter.
“Oh, is it a birthday?”
“A very special one.”
Peter was gone for the weekend at a men’s conference, so there were only three of us at the table. It felt a little too much like the lonely days. (That feels like it should be capitalized. Like a month or a whole time period. January, the Jurassic Period, and the Lonely Days.)
Tucker pointed to the empty spot. “Our first dad passed away, and root beer floats were his favorite. So we need three root beer floats, please.”
Our waiter was maybe 22 years old. And he handled it so well. “I respect that so much, man. I’m so glad you’re here. Three root beer floats, coming up.”
Did I mention they were bottomless?
On their fourth serving, I said, “Guys, please pay attention to what your bodies are telling you right now. I’d love to not have anybody sick.”
Tucker looked dreamily into his tall glass. “I bet my first dad is having root beer floats tonight. So many. When I get to heaven, I’m going to drink root beer floats all day long with him. And we’ll never get sick.”
“I love that idea,” I said. “Do you ever miss him anymore?”
“Sometimes, but I don’t really feel like I have to since I have my new dad.” He pointed again to the empty chair. Perhaps it was more accurately the Dad Chair.
“Buddy, I feel exactly the same way. Exactly.”
We made a list of the ways the dads are different. Because it’s good to do that sometimes, to remember we’re thankful for both and to feel the freedom to love them differently.
Root beer floats help us remember.
And that’s when I realized that our tradition, as silly as it sounds, is kind of like a sacrament. It’s not that different from the juice and the cracker of communion, the blood and the body of Christ. With the wine and the bread, the juice and the cracker, and even now with the root beer and ice cream, we drink and we remember. He was here. And we’ll see him again. And this is only a taste of how great it will be.
Maybe it’s silly. But somehow the whole thing made sense to us.
Sometimes theology is like that: it’s a delicious parallel waiting in the glass in front of me.