Erin O'daniel is a writer, artist and gender expansive womxn living in Duluth, Minnesota

The Harv

The Harv aka Harvey Simon passed away the day before Christmas Eve 2017.  The Harv died less than one month after being diagnosed with non-alcoholic liver cancer, and two to three years earlier than they’d said he would. 

The Harv is the dad of Pickle- my best friend of thirty years. The Harv was my most consistent father figure from fifth grade on. The Harv was my middle school basketball coach and my high school soccer trainer. The Harv is the husband of Eileen, his high school sweet heart, who he met in Cleveland Heights when they were both sixteen years old.

The Harv is the biggest Cleveland Indians, Ohio State, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Cleveland Browns fan I know. The Harv took Pickle and me to Dave and Busters weekly to watch Bernie Kosar’s Browns battle the Broncos plus others. The Harv paid for our food and arcade tokens. The Harv’s credit card, years later, paid for my first fancy sushi and south Asian cuisine. The Harv’s credit card had a picture of a Cleveland Browns helmet on it.

The Harv made me practice boxing out every time I came over to their house. The Harv and his six foot four frame stood solid as a rock on their kitchen tile. The Harv made me crouch low, knees bent ready for any offensive move on the court. The Harv made me a better basketball player.

The Harv was driving a teal jeep Cherokee the first time I heard Tracy Chapman’s 1988 Fast Car album. The Harv had taken Pickle, her brother Adam, me and Eileen for ice cream at Baskin Robbins 32 flavors. The Harv gifted me great frozen dessert that night and an introduction to social justice flavored art.

The Harv appreciated every part of my sporty southern self. The Harv loved his two kids like crazy and laughed about how Pickle and Adam were much better artists than jocks. The Harv called me Irish from eighth grade on –on and off the court/field.

The Harv played his own sports every day of the week- softball, tennis, basketball. The Harv wore knee braces. The Harv ate like an athlete- giving me a run for my money- after every practice and game. The Harv enjoyed food and drank lots of milk and pop in red and white plastic cups from Texas culinary institutions like Dickey’s BBQ.

The Harv loved his daughter in all her queerness. The Harv stood tall under the huppah at Pickle’s wedding in 2012. The Harv cried tears as Pickle and her wife Karen stomped on a glass. The Harv laughed his crinkle eye almost laugh as their dog Lila, wearing flowers around her solid black Lab/Hound neck, stole the show that day.

The Harv was consistent and generous. The Harv was always ready to have all kinds of fun. The Harv drove his family into downtown Dallas at the drop of a hat for museums, restaurants, games. The Harv was a doer. The Harv could also camp out on his couch for hours to watch any Cleveland team like a total champ.

The Harv was a birder. The Harv accompanied Eileen on daily hikes in and around Dallas. The Harv retired and he and Eileen flew north again. The Harv and Eileen then lived minutes away from the Cleveland metro parks and a bird sanctuary. The Harv and Eileen accompanied me on countless walks there when I’d stop and stay with them while passing through to my family’s western NY cottage. The Harv and Eileen came to northern MN five years ago. The Harv invited me to stay in a small cabin with them outside Ely. The Harv understood when I turned down his offer only because I was in New York with family.

The Harv and Eileen took birding adventures to Big Bend National Park. The Harv and I talked Texas, birds, sports and Minnesota in November when I called him. The Harv wanted to return to the Midwestern wilds I call home.

The Harv had a two dimensional, life-size LeBron James sticker on his kitchen wall. The Harv and Eileen were always emphatic about me eating well when I visited their homes. The Harv made me the best octopus salad of my life. The Harv and I shared the salad sitting on their back porch looking out over their pond one summer visit.

The Harv and Eileen visited me in the hospital. The Harv asked me questions and listened. The Harv wanted to know what I thought about womxn’s sports- especially Minnesota Lynx players and our championship wins. The Harv was the man who taught me what it feels like to have a father who’s consistently interested in my life. The Harv set the bar.

The Harv was a lawyer. The Harv was a sporty, well educated intellectual with huge books all around their house. The Harv insisted on clever bathroom reading. The Harv made me smarter every time I spent time at the Simon’s and pooped.

The Harv and Eileen traveled every New Year’s Eve. The Harv and Eileen’s house became the place to celebrate endings and beginnings. The Harv had a huge, comfortable, burgundy leather recliner. The Harv wasn’t in it while gone on these vacations so I’d crash before midnight, the morning person that I am, while others shouted and honked in revelry all around me.

The Harv’s living room in Dallas was the place Pickle and I first watched MTV and played SkipBo. The Harv’s Texas pool and patio equaled hours of games of Marco Polo and Guppi. The Harv had live oak trees and holly surrounding the water. The Harv hired someone to maintain this part of his house.

The Harv was sometimes brutally honest about how I played a game. The Harv was one of the kindest and gentlest men I know. The Harv was the son, one of six, of holocaust survivors. The Harv was the brother-in-law of a woman beaten so badly by her husband she struggled with her mental health the rest of her life.

The Harv bragged endlessly when Pickle published two books of poetry and when his son, a playwright living in LA, sold a pilot episode to NBC. The Harv continued to brag as Adam flew between NYC and LA for the filming of the first twelve shows. The Harv asked me at least twice if I watched the show.

The Harv was so tall he scared my dog Lichen. The Harv was surprised by my dog’s reaction to him. The Harv looked hurt in his bathrobe early morning when Lichen whimpered as they faced off in front of the fridge.

The Harv was a great dude.  The Harv was the father figure I needed alongside my intermittently-absent-from-sixth-grade-on dad. The Harv made me believe in what a family could be. The Harv was sometimes difficult and sad about not having any grand kids of his own. The Harv’s death has made me sadder than I’ve been in a long time.

The Harv is missed. The Harv leaves Pickle, Eileen and Adam grieving. The Harv was taken care of by amazing hospice workers days before death. The Harv went peacefully at home in Cleveland on December 23rd 2017. The Harv will never be matched. The Harv is watching every sporting match possible from wherever he is right now. The Harv thank you and I love you.

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