I’ve never seen a man read a book in his entire life. One time I saw his high school report card—and the only class he got an ‘A’ in was gym. His parents never had any money. So right after school, he got a job stocking produce at a local food market.
The owners realized that he had a knack for numbers, so they promoted him to the manager at the age of twenty. He met my mother at the store. They got married. And not long afterward I came along. For as long as I can remember, the store has been a huge part of his life. He worked six days a week. He saved enough money to buy out the other owners. But it was never an obsession or anything. Whenever he was home with us, he was fully present. His family was his sweet spot. He never needed to hang out with his buddies. He was madly in love with my mom. And his idea of a good time was spending time with his kids. I used to think that dad was just a ‘family man.’ But as I got older, I realized that his ‘family’ extended to the folks who worked for him.
Nobody ever leaves our store. We have fifteen managers– and the newest one started ten years ago. Our employees stick around because my dad has always taken care of them. He has their back—through divorces, parenting issues, and health problems. One of our managers has a brain condition, and my dad’s the one who drives him to the appointments. Sometimes he’s too generous. He’s been burned before. But he kinda doesn’t care. He just keeps pushing in all his chips for other people.
The man has a handwritten note from Mother Teresa because of all the food he’s given away. If you came into the store today, you’d find him stocking produce—just like he was doing when he was eighteen. He loves to tell people that he works for his children and that we can fire him at any time. Everyone thinks he’s joking. But he’s not. On the day my dad got full ownership of the store, he signed over everything to his four kids. I was in the room when it happened. His lawyers and accountants tried to talk him out of it. They told him: ‘You’re giving away everything. You’ll never be able to stop working.’ And he replied: ‘I was poor when I started this thing. And that’s how I plan on leaving.’