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Grocery-cart lessons last a lifetime


By Richard A. DiLiberto Jr.

We all have defining moments from our early years. When I was about 10 years old, I remember my father coming home each day, exhausted from his police officer’s shift in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and then doing a second job working as a private contractor, doing cement work, asphalt work, carpentry, cleaning services, and whatever people called “headache jobs” they didn’t want to deal with themselves.

My dad’s father (my grandfather) emigrated from the Agrigento region of Sicily, Italy, and instilled values of hard work in all his children. My dad passed those values down to us.

My dad made a deal with the Acme manager that we would stack the carts in the back of his bright gold pickup truck.

I will always remember his large, strong, bronzed hands, hardened from years in the sun swinging a pick or digging with a shovel. Yet, they were so surprisingly gentle when he would hold our hands or stroke our faces.

We had an Acme supermarket near our home, and down the street, a few blocks away, a senior citizen high-rise apartment building. After the senior citizens would shop at Acme, they would slowly wheel their carts filled with grocery bags to the high-rise apartments, and then leave the carts in a jumble in front of the building. It was not long before the Acme had a problem – a dire shortage of grocery carts – which became a “headache job” perfect for my father.

My dad made a deal with the Acme manager that he would stack the carts in the back of his bright gold pickup truck, and return them to the Acme in return for 50 cents a cart. I remember those carts would fit one-into-the-other and my dad would nest 20 carts, 10 on the left and 10 on the right of his pickup truck each trip, at a tidy profit of $10 per truckload. He would take me along to help, and give me half the profits, or $5. One sunny Saturday afternoon, we were taking those 20 carts back to the Acme, driving directly past the baseball field where many of my friends were playing a game. Now, I suspect none of you has ever been in a pickup truck carrying 20 shaking, rattling and rolling steel grocery carts up a potholed street, but it is not a quiet journey. As my dad and I clattered along in the truck, my friends abruptly stopped the game, all looked up simultaneously, and in unison, pointed stiff-armed at me in the passenger’s seat and laughed uproariously! I remember putting my hand over my face to hide my identity, but they all knew it was I in my dad’s bright gold pickup truck.

After we passed the field, my dad looked over, gently stroked my face with that work-worn hand, and quietly said, “Are you ashamed of your daddy, Ricky?”

“No. I’m not ashamed, Dad,” I fibbed.

“Don’t you ever be ashamed if you are working your hardest and earning an honest dollar,” my dad replied.

I remembered those words throughout college, law school, 10 years’ service in the legislature, and 35 years of law practice. And I passed them on to our children. We should always respect and admire anyone who works hard and earns an honest dollar.

Rick DiLiberto, Esq., is Chairman of the Delaware Commission on Italian Heritage and Culture, and a lawyer with the personal injury section in the law firm Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor. He served in the Delaware House of Representatives from 1992-2002.

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