I believe in ice cream floats.
My best memory of my dad is making Coke floats with him in our kitchen in Bossier City, La.
Two scoops of vanilla bean ice cream in the blender. Enough Coke to make the scoops separate and form tiny islands (Pepsi was inferior; Diet Coke was worse). Blend. Three pulses for good luck. Plastic tumblers. Straw.
My dad always had a sweet tooth. He was the guy who knew about every new candy the minute it hit shelves.
He took my brother and me to 7-11 on a regular basis to get our favorites (Spree for me, Skittles for my brother). My dad loved every candy, but Starburst jellybeans were his favorite.
As a result, his mouth was full of enough metal to produce an entire roll of aluminum foil.
Years later, as I sat next to the hospital bed and watched my father struggle to sip water, Coke floats kept coming back to me.
“Do you still have a sweet tooth, Dad?” I asked.
“Not too much anymore,” he said. “I don’t eat much sugar anymore.”
One divorce, one battle with colon cancer and many years later, my dad had changed.
My dad used to run 20 miles a day. He would take me to the golf course by our house in Maryland and run the trail around the 18 holes. Two times, three times, four times. He lapped me while I pedaled my hot-pink mountain bike and tried to keep up.
When we went home, he made us Coke floats, a reward for a run well done.
Now he could barely walk 800 feet. He could only have small tastes of foods he used to enjoy — ribs, lobster, steak, caviar — instead of the plates he would consume after pounding the pavement.
From my perch next to the hospital bed, I counted the bones in his back. His shoulder blades stuck out like shark fins. His wrists looked like they could barely hold the paper plate with three barbecued ribs.
When he was discharged from the hospital, on his second night at home, my stepmother invited my brother and me over for dinner.
My brother sucked down enough food to furnish a soup kitchen for a month and I nibbled on homemade garlic bread.
My dad ate a small circle of spaghetti but passed on salad. But after dinner he asked for it — a Coke float.
Well, it was a root beer float, but same thing.
When he started drowning the ice cream scoop in the root beer, it hit me that this was probably the last time I would ever share a meal with my father.
But that ice cream float was a sign that some things would never change no matter the time or distance between us. We were still connected.
I believe that every time I get an ice cream float, I am still my father’s daughter.