I heard a raised voice coming from the Casual Café at Christian Care Retirement Community in Mesquite. A small, wiry gentleman was waving his cane and was distraught as he stood at the counter trying to order a chocolate milkshake.
The staff was patiently trying to explain that milkshakes were only available on Thursdays, and that this was Tuesday. The old gentleman was confused, he was convinced that it was indeed Thursday, Milkshake Day.
I strolled over and introduced myself. Trying to distract him and diffuse the situation, I commented about his distinctive ball cap. WW2 VETERAN was embroidered in gold thread on the dark blue cap. I asked Mr. Thomas if he has served overseas during the War.
“No Sir, I never made it out of New Mexico” he chuckled.
I knew enough WW2 history to inquire, “LOS ALAMOS?” “MANHATTAN PROJECT?”
“Yes, the Manhattan Project -- but none of us knew what the secrecy was all about. I was just a guard for one of the Docs….”
“Umm, not Doctor Oppenheimer by any chance?” I asked.
“Yep, he and his wife Kitty became good friends.”
Of course Dr. Robert Oppenheimer was the scientific overseer of the development of the atomic bomb in the desert of New Mexico in the early 1940s. The bomb that would shorten the War and forever change history. I was flabbergasted and had a thousand questions for my new friend. And yes, of course I made a beeline to SONIC and brought back the largest chocolate milkshake they made.
Mr. Thomas was a widower with no children with his only family two younger sisters that lived in the Mesquite area. He began to attend the small campus congregation. The 93 year old invited me to attend his baptism in the indoor pool at Christian Care Retirement Community.
After he had been immersed by the campus minister he hobbled out of the pool dripping wet, clasped my hand, and with a broad grin and loud voice proclaimed “Guess what I’m in the mood for?”
Yes, you guessed it. We celebrated with SONIC chocolate milkshakes.
Mr. Thomas passed away about six months later. At his Memorial service, his sisters shared that his last months of his life had in some ways been his happiest -- he had found a gentle PEACE in his heart. A gift given by the Holy Spirit alone.
I never pass a SONIC without thinking of him….