Wild About Harry
One of my first memories of my Uncle Harry is of him sitting on the edge of my bed, just discharged from the Navy after World War II, emptying his duffel bag, extracting gifts for me, his only nephew: one of his white duty hats, a Japanese flag, a canteen, a duty belt, a couple of loose insignia, his dog tags. I was eleven and hadn’t seen him for the past four years, during which time he had served on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. I remember at that moment thinking when I grew older I wanted to be just like him. Harry could have gone to college on the GI Bill, but after four years in the Navy, he wanted to get back into the world without further delay. His first job out of service was selling men’s clothes at a place in the Loop called Syd Jerome. Harry himself looked great in everything he wore. He was six feet tall, broad shouldered, with thick black hair, blue eyes, and a smile that got your attention. Women, my mother said, were crazy about him, always.
Harry was my mother’s brother, younger by eight years. Their mother died in my mother’s adolescence, so she and her older sister Lillian had a larger part than usual in helping to raise their brother Harold, or Heshie as they called him, then Harry as everyone later referred to him. They spoiled him terribly, according to my mother, but who wouldn’t have? He was such an attractive kid, and he became more attractive as he grew older. Nobody, my mother said, could refuse Harry anything.
About the Author
Joseph Epstein, author of our monthly “Enter Laughing” column, last wrote for Commentary on T.S. Eliot and the demise of the literary culture.