I have always been a diet soda drinker. Yes, even as a kid there would be empty glass bottles of diet soda that I would sneak the last slurp out of before they were taken back for recycling. It was of course not recycling like we have today, but you would take your glass bottles back to the store, get a cash refund and then watch them head down a conveyor belt of unknown destination while you planned how you would spend the $3.96 you received for your 47 bottles. It took me awhile to learn to love diet soda. I tried to love lemonade, and the 5 flavors of Kool-Aid offered in the early 80’s, I tried to drink tea (but at home it never tasted like it did at my grandma’s heart stopping chewable with sugar tea) and I even tried to drink…water. Water as it turns out was only tasty when it was 117 degrees, you had been in the sun for 4 hours and suffering from first form of dehydration like weakness…inability to think straight, and the solution was drinking water out of the garden hose in the back yard. That water was delicious.
While taking a break from the water hose, I noticed that my family was drinking this cool new drink called “Tab”. It had a cool label, a cool color and an aftertaste that left a memory. But as some children who’s parents drank various alcoholic beverages, I was a kid of diet soda drinkers…and I loved it.
In the early 80’s the world changed as we were introduced to the idea of “Diet Coke.” My parents continued to buy diet soda (Diet Coke included) but it was just for the adults. My dad would tell us, “That one is for your mom when she gets home.” That’s alright…I would sip the left overs from the bottles before recycling.
The world of soda changed in the 80’s. Max Headroom was on the scene and well…it worked. There were actually talking Coke Machines. Okay let me break it down for you. A coke machine is like a vending machine and this machine talked to you while you bought your soda. It was AMAZING! As I inserted my stolen quarters, I was also experiencing culture, coming of age…who am I kidding, it was an electronic vision that spoke.
My grandpa was a preacher in a small Ohio town of Degraff Ohio. I’m sure they were known for 100 things, but to me they were known for the IGA having a Max Headroom soda machine. Every time we would visit my grandparents my cousin Jenn and I would also visit the soda machine. We would insert our quarters, wait for Max Headroom to speak too us and then walk down the street sharing that soda. We were the ultra-cool 10 year old’s, and carrying that soda proved it.
My cousin was ripped away from this world too early. She left behind her best friend of a husband and her grieving young children. Her legacy was so full and so rich in the lives she has touched, including mine, she has left behind a daily reminder of who she was and where we have come from.
She and I shared a love of Diet Coke. And while most Diet Coke would do, McDonald’s Diet Coke was the best. I would call her with random times I was going through the drive thru and she would call asking that there be no shame in packing up her young boys to get a Diet Coke through the drive thru…maybe one or two or one also for the afternoon. During my step sons graduation I drove 35 minutes off a mountain to get a Diet Coke and I had to call her. She was the only one who could possibly understand. Today as I continue to adjust that she is not here, I know that God has provided her with the perfect Diet Coke in heaven. I believe that it is full of chipped ice, a Styrofoam cup, and the perfectly carbonated beverage. I pray that Max Headroom is somewhere saying nonsense that makes her feel like a million bucks.
Jenn was never made for this world, she belonged to a home with Jesus.