My father and I were sitting at his kitchen counter over cocktails the other day when the conversation turned to grocery shopping. I know this might seem an odd subject matter for a 77 year-old man and his son to be having, but ever since Dad’s retirement six months ago, he’s become an expert on a wide range of exciting new topics: how to properly cook moonshine without burning it (you can’t); the pros and cons of roundabouts (there are no pros); why we have solar eclipses (scientific misinformation). He has nothing better to do, so I always sit idly by and listen to his ruminations.

“You know, grocery stores are amazing places,” he told me. “I’ve been married to your mother for 55 years and we’ve never had a shred of edible food in the house until now.”

I motioned toward their pantry, where the 42 inch shelves were bowed from the weight of the accumulated inventory. “That’s the stuff your mother has bought over the years at Sam’s Club,” he snapped. “Ten dozen cans of tuna fish, 30 bottles of assorted vinegars and oils. Also, gift baskets people have sent us for Christmas over the last two decades. Jams and jellies, exotic mustards imported from Turkmenistan, salad dressings made from fruit and even worse. You can’t eat those things.”

“I go to the grocery store every single morning now,” he said. “And usually again in the afternoon. We now have all kinds of stuff I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. Milk. Bread. Peanut butter.”

A scowl then came over his face and he poured himself a fresh vodka. “The only problem is that your mother is starting to take advantage of me. She can sense it when I’m about to leave for Schnucks and then spends the next hour making up a list of things for me to get.”

I shrugged, thinking this made logical sense. “Don’t try to take her side. You can’t imagine what these lists look like,” Dad said slamming his hand against the counter. “The other day, she wanted fresh basil. Do you know how hard that is to find? I looked in the weed section, next to the parsley and cilantro and all those other little green shrubs that are randomly tossed together. No luck.”

I hesitated, about to respond with the obvious, but he anticipated it. “I know what you’re about to say. Of course I don’t ask anybody!” he roared. “Those people have jobs to do, stacking tomato paste and such. I don’t want to appear feeble or senile. Nobody knows what kale looks like, and I wouldn’t eat it anyway. If I can’t find something, I tell your mother they don’t carry it, it’s out of stock, or no such thing even exists. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

My father screwed a fresh nicotine cartridge into his e-cigarette and continued his rant. “The other day, your mother wanted me to get a whole bunch of fruits and vegetables. As I was walking out the door, she told me to be sure to smell the cantaloupes and squeeze the avocados to make sure they were ripe. Can you imagine? What kind of sick freak goes out in public and smells and squeezes food, for everyone else to see?”

He was now making a valid point. I nodded my head in agreement. “I’m ashamed to admit this,” my father continued. “I took my whole shopping cart back into the beer cooler, where nobody could possibly see me, and squeezed and smelled the cantaloupes and avocados. Guess what? They smelled like cantaloupes and avocados!”

I poured out my ice and placed my empty glass in the kitchen sink. As I was getting ready to leave, Dad suggested that he was going to apply for a job working in a grocery store. I froze in my tracks and turned around in bewilderment. He sounded as though he was serious.

“Yep,” he said. “I want to be a security guard. I’ll post myself in front of the express lane and count everyone’s items. If they have more than twelve, not only do they not get to be in that line, they get thrown out of the entire store.”

As I was walking out the door, Dad was still talking. “Oh, and if I catch anyone smelling or squeezing any of the food, they get thrown out for life!”

Homeboy, aka Columbia attorney Doug Pugh, is the father of two daughters. Beyond that, it gets weird. He’s a Kewpie married to a Bruin, a graduate of both MU’s journalism and law schools and is working to become domesticated for the sake of his wife and the girls.