My grandfather claimed he never met a food he didn’t like. And he took full advantage of that. He ate what he wanted, drank what he wanted and at times smoked what he wanted. He fought obesity his entire life. As a result of that he suffered from diabetes and despite not watching his diet or exercising, he was compliant about seeing an endocrinologist on a regular basis who would track his rising HbA1c levels and tell him to watch his diet and exercise. As I mentioned previously, into his 80’s, he wished he had taken better care of himself if he knew he was going to live as long as he did. It’s poetically ironic.
His endocrinologist was at Wesley Memorial which later became part of Northwestern Memorial Hospital when Passavant Memorial and Wesley Memorial, both founded in the late 1800’s were consolidated creating what was then the Midwest’s largest private, non-for-profit hospital system.
Of course Northwestern remains but the actual building my grandfather would frequent for endocrine appointments is long gone. I did my first physical examinations in that building in what I think had the most ornate and stained-glassed adorned lobby of any hospital I have been in.
Another patient had a standing appointment as well, I think on Friday afternoons and my grandfather and he would see each other in the lobby waiting their turn to see the endocrinologist. His name was Ray. Ray’s parents were of Czech origin. During World War I Ray lied about his age and became an ambulance driver at 15 but did not see any time overseas with the war ending before he would have been shipped. Later in life he sold multi-mixers, and while his sales were plummeting due to competition, Ray came across some restaurants in California owned by a couple of brothers named McDonald. Long story short, Ray bought the restaurants from these brothers for $2.7 million and opened up a restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois called McDonald’s. Trillions of hamburgers later I think the restaurants are still around.
I have no idea what a fast food entrepreneur and a glazer could possibly have in common but my grandfather I think enjoyed his conversations with Mr. Kroc as much as he did with his endocrinologist.
Today, the Kroc foundation supports alcoholism, diabetes and of course the Ronald McDonald House among other causes.
In the winters when he couldn’t work outside, my grandfather drove a large Checker cab, again, to pick up weary tourists in Chicago to/from O’Hare or Midway or drive around the Loop for local business people. Sometimes I would occupy one of the jumpseats in the back and ride along. He seemed to like being a cabbie almost as much as being a glazer. He certainly didn’t mind driving and I think he liked meeting the passengers. In retirement, he was Uber X before there was Uber X.
I learned about my grandfather and Ray Kroc having the same doctor at the same time long after he moved to Florida in the late 70’s, ahead of the Blizzard of ’79. I think my grandfather was retired for about 2 weeks before he took a job delivering flowers for local florists using his 1971 Pontiac station wagon, the kind that had the fake wood around it like the car needed a belt or something to make it look better. Many summers I would spend with my grandparent’s and he would teach me the flower delivery business, the quickest way in and out of hospitals, office buildings and even cruise ships in the Port of Fort Lauderdale. He kept that car for many years, even as the air conditioning, window cranks and radio gave out. The floorboards were completely rusted through so you could see the street and get a nice spray off the roads from Florida rains. He eventually gave that up and the car and replaced it with another car he used to help widows get to the store or provide rides to and from the airport for neighbors or pick up their families visiting South Florida.
I guess my grandfather never completely retired from being a cabbie and relished the responsibility and telling his stories to people, even if it was just me sitting in the back of the cab.