‘My worst nightmare’: Young grocer returns to work after coronavirus kills dad

The coronavirus struck Joseph Api and his two parents, but only the 20-year-old college student and his mom survived.

And even though Api was still grieving the loss of his beloved father, he went back to work at his job as a grocer three weeks later — so he could honor his dad’s commitment to a strong work ethic, he says.

“I’m living my worst nightmare, but I knew that I had to make him proud and not sit around and just stop working,” said Api, who works at the DeCicco & Sons grocery in Pelham, Westchester County, as a frozen-food manager while going to college.

“My dad had a very strong work ethic, even before all of this, I went to work and gave it my all. Now I’m in overdrive,” Api told The Post, adding that he’s working up to six days a week at the grocery.

When the coronavirus crisis started to grow in New York, Api,  who is from New Rochelle — the contagion’s first local epicenter — wasn’t sure what to make of it.

“I didn’t know the extent of how serious this virus was — I took it as a challenge,” Api said, adding that he continued going to work and living with his father, Joseph, 58, and mother, Joanna, 52.

Api’s mother’s office shut down early, and she soon became ill in late March, and then his dad, who worked at IBM as an accountant, contracted the virus while quarantined at home.

Then Api, who thought he had allergies, suddenly lost his ability to taste and smell and became itchy and tired. He tested positive for the coronavirus in early April, as did his mother and father.

While Api and his mom recovered, Joseph only got worse, and he eventually succumbed to the deadly bug April 9.

Although the Westchester Community College student was suffering from grief and exhaustion, he went back to work three weeks after his dad died.

Wearing gloves and a mask, he stocked the shelves with frozen vegetables, frozen fruit, paper towels, toilet papers, Lysol, and basic dairy products so customers could have the essentials they needed.

After work, Api immediately showers and throws his clothes in the laundry and then studies for his courses. The student, whose major is undecided at the moment, managed to score an A recently in his social psychology class.

“[Working and studying] has given me a great sense of accomplishment and keeps me very busy and I don’t get lost in my head,” Api said.

He recounted how his father loved hearing anecdotes “all the time” about his job at the supermarket, which he loves and enjoys “no matter how much the workload is.”

The young man originally had big plans to become a firefighter but admitted that his mom “basically said she can’t lose me, too,” Api recalled.

“I don’t think she wants me to be a firefighter anymore,” he said.

Api’s mother “is taking it day by day” and still “struggling very hard” with the death of her husband, the son said.

“The two of them were best friends — together for 35 years,” Api said of his parents.

To get him through the dark times, Api said he remembers words from his late grandmother, who passed away four months before his dad.

“There is nothing I can’t do, and if I put my mind to it, I’ll be the best,” he said his grandmother always reminded him.

“[The] two of them were just very proud of me,” Api said of his dad and grandmother.

Additional reporting by Gabrielle Fonrouge

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