One of my earliest memories of Harvey is the smell of Wildroot hair crème on the inside band of his hat. You see, his hat is shielding my face from the sun. I am laying on the back seat of my parents’ 1953 Chevrolet with my head on Harvey’s lap and my feet on my brother’s. We are taking a Sunday drive. Mom, Dad and Grandpa are in the front seat.
Harvey is Mom’s youngest sibling, and Grandpa is Mom’s father. Grandpa loves to go for a ride after church on Sunday. It is a weekly thing for us to pick Grandpa and Harvey up and go to church. Grandpa buys lunch, and we go for a drive. I was little enough that I don’t generally remember where we went — just that I was with Harvey and Grandpa.
Harvey was slow. He had the emotional and mental maturity of about an eight-grader. This did not matter when I was little as I was exactly that — little. As I matured Harvey did not change. This puzzled me as my brother, who was four years older than I, did change. As I moved into junior high Harvey became more a contemporary than an Uncle and the troubles started. Well not “troubles” exactly but “strain.” Harvey was, in his mind, the adult while I was just a kid, but I was seeing that he was no more mature than I was, and I resented his trying to manage me. It was about then that Mom and I had a talk about how I was passing him up, which would be hard on him. With this in mind, our relationship changed, settling into a new pattern which continued to work well!
One of the issues that arose had to do with my changing abilities and Harvey’s inability to see me as anything but a little girl. We frequently went to Beaver Lake for a short overnight stay. It was always fun, and the best part for me was swimming in the lake. Harvey always warned me to not go in too deep. When I was little, this was fine as I could not yet swim, but as I grew competent and became an excellent swimmer it just seemed silly. Once I understood about Harvey, I stopped resenting his intrusion. I would simply remind him that I swam well and ask him to time me as I swam to the raft and back. That he liked doing and would reward me with a dry towel and exclamations concerning how fast I was.
When Glen and I got married, Harvey was there of course! At one point, he hugged me and told me to “be a good girl.” It was not unusual for him to say this, generally just before the family went home from a visit. This time I could not resist — I told him I did not have to “be good” as I was married now! He blushed brightly and hugged me again!
Harvey died young — in his middle 50s — of a heart condition likely stemming from the childhood illness that caused his disability. He was due to retire soon after 20 years of service to Swedish Hospital. Without the daily routine of a job to go to, friends at work and just the general day-to-day things he was used to, he would have been lost. I feel God knew this and called him home while he was still happy and an active contributor to the lives of those around him.
He was active at First (United) Methodist Church in downtown Seattle as an usher and worked in the laundry at Swedish Hospital on Pill Hill. He was remembered for his generous spirit and can-do attitude both in his work and the church, but for me I remember Sunday rides and the smell of Wildroot hair crème on the inside band of his hat.