As we get older, we find ourselves sometimes doing things for our parents mostly because it's the right thing to do. But what about when your dad or your mom feel the need to repay you in the form of ... groceries for a good deed?
Every now and then, the original Mrs. Franco will call and ask me if I am going out that day. If so, she'll ask me to maybe pick up a prescription here or something there. And I don't mind doing it, mostly because she is my mother, and mostly because she put me through Penn State for four years on a minimum-wage salary and very little money borrowed from the bank.
When you see in movies from the old days that Italians were good with money, believe it!
But here's where it gets funny. I drop off the medicine at my mom's house. Most parents will greet you with a thank you.
My mom greets you with a thank you, a large stick of pepperoni and a bag of Veggie Crisps from Sam's Club. I kid you not. And you can't say no. You have to walk out of there with something, even if it's a jar of sun-dried tomatoes or leftover Braciole.
And if you allow yourself to go inside the house, then you're doomed because she will take you down a row of cupboards, opening each one like some Vanna White-clone, asking you if there is anything in there that you need. There is a grocery bag in one hand and sometimes a feeling of shame in the other hand. In fact, just the other day, I found out that taking her to a funeral parlor to pay her respects was worth ... one pound of salami.
Taking her grocery shopping is just as entertaining, too. Everything she buys, she wants to buy you one, too.
Mom: "Scotty, do you want some prune juice?"
Me: "No. Not now and not in 10 years when I'll probably need prune juice."
Mom: "Well maybe one of the kids will want some."
Me: "No kid - on this earth or anywhere in the galaxy - wants prune juice."
And here's where it sometimes gets bad because when I do let her buy something for me, it's usually something that I need for dinner that night that I was going to buy for myself.
If we're having french fries, and we're out of ketchup, I tell her she can buy me that. My wife thinks that's awful, my mom thinks it's weird, and my brothers and sister believe it to be just plain sad.
It goes back to my high school and college days, though.
Grandma Franco used to always go shopping at Weis Markets. She didn't drive, but we did. She told my brother, Tom, and I that if we took her, she would buy us anything we wanted in the store.
My brother and I would return with a cart full of name-brand toaster pastries, peanut butter, soda and TV dinners, stuff my mother would never buy because the store brands were cheaper, and just as good. We were the envy of our college roommates because of Grandma Franco's trips.
And don't worry about my mother getting mad at me for writing about her in this manner. Her policy is - and has always been - there is no such thing as bad publicity in the Mirror.
In fact, I might just get a package of La Jo's genuine Italian sausage out of this column.
Scott Franco is a member of the Altoona Mirror sports staff, a husband and a father of four. Reach him at 946-7528 or sfranco@altoonamirror