Today is my only sibling’s birthday. Eric Oscar is only 19 months younger than me. When we lost our father in 1973, we were but kids… he was a week before his 13th birthday and I was 14. (Daddio was 40, mom 38.)
Best Friend Ever!
That loss gave us a deep partnership. He is truly my deepest, truest friend. Eric Oscar stood up for me at my wedding to Brian… I had a “Dude of Honor.”
We have very different styles, very different personalities. He’s an introvert, geeky in the sense of really loving gizmos and technical things. I am geeky in the sense of using technology as a tool to get things done.
His style is casual and relaxed with an intellectual sense of humor; mine is intense/ funky/ colorful. He is as comfortable in nature as I am in a big city.
In spite of these many surface differences, we have very similar belief systems and values. We have a deep respect and regard for one another as truly good humans. I can call my brother at 4am and wake him up, he will never complain. When I went through my divorce in 1991, he took calls at all hours. He is truly a friend without judgement.
Losses Gave Us Focus on Relationship
We both learned to value relationship more deeply than those who have never had a loss. In fact, he was widowed at age 30 (his late wife, Kelly, died unexpectedly at age 27). We went through that second huge loss together as well. Relationship is just about everything if you’ve seen loved ones die young.
I like doing anything if I’m doing it with my brother. I’m not a fan of cooking dinner. However, when we were in high school, we were in charge of meals. Mom had a job that kept her out until 5.
Eric and I rode our bicycles to the grocery store, bought groceries, planned meals and cooked them. It was fun, cooking with Eric. We had a great time learning new things to cook. We read labels, we shopped carefully, we prepared food together. I don’t love cooking these days, but cooking with my brother was the best time, ever.
The Dudes Learned to Fix Things in the 60’s
My father came of age in the 1940’s-50’s. He believed a girl should not have to fix things, or at least not dirty/techy things. I was taught to garden and to do some recreational/artful woodwork.
Daddy wanted me to know the theory of electrical wiring, so he built me a little board of wood with batteries, switches, light bulbs and a bin of short wires. I could do the theory of wiring all day, sitting tidily in the living room or my bedroom. Eric, on the other hand, was taught to crawl up in the attic space and push wires through walls… at the age of 11.
To give my father credit, he did insist that I learn to change a tire on the car before I was allowed to sign up for drivers’ education. He never saw me drive, but I am grateful for that lesson at age 14.
I have changed many tires. Though I don’t enjoy the task, there is such a power in rescuing oneself! I highly recommend it. Last time I changed a tire, I was delayed merely 22 minutes. Had I waited for roadside assistance, it would have taken at least an hour. Power!
My Favorite Eric Oscar Story
When I worked for Black Child and Family Institute in the early 1990’s, I knew more about computers than anyone else in the building, and was often the answer person for computer “hiccups.” Then one day, my computer (the main one in the office) stopped working. We were a nonprofit with donated equipment. Somehow there was no real place in the budget for any big computer repair.Â It was up to me to fix my own machine. I knew how to fix word processing problems, but not machine issues.
Eric Oscar was working as a computer expert/technician/programmer in Detroit at the time. I called him, not knowing what to do. He said: “Do you have a screwdriver? Can you get the phone, the computer and the screwdriver in the same place?” I hung up, moved everything to a good place, and called him again.
He said:Â “OK, look at the back of the box. See that screw in the top corner? Unscrew that…” and proceeded to have me take the case off the computer. He walked me through a repair. I learned to fix computer hardware OVER THE PHONE, with my patient and thorough brother on the other end.”
After that job, I went into a computer software training job for 6 years. After that? I was a self-employed Y2K consultant, and I often hired my beloved brother to be my assistant. I did hardware repairs as well as software at that point. All because Eric was matter of fact and taught me what he knew I could do.
True Friend, True Feminist, Power-Sharer
I call this man the embodiment of a feminist. The good kind, the real kind. Over the years he has purchased me power tools for my birthday and other holidays… or no holiday at all. He knows I’m competent and have a generally good mechanical sense of logic. He had the luxury of growing up in abundance which means he doesn’t see fixing things as a financial failure.
I still don’t like having dirty hands. If I can fix things with a screwdriver or a nice clean wrench, I tend to do it. If it needs a mess made or muscles, I hire it done if at all possible.
I’ve fixed a lot of things on my cars over the years, saved a lot of money, and RESCUED MYSELF. I think that rescuing oneself is the coolest, most powerful experience ever. (Of course, it’s better after the rescue is complete! During the process it’s no fun at all.)
My Wonderful, Human, Loving Brother
Today I honor what my brother means to me. This gives me deep pleasure.
Some folks are afraid that there are more bad people in the world than good. I say that we only get news about exceptions… about the crummy stuff that doesn’t happen often but which catches our attention.
I hope this tribute to my real, human, good friend who is my brother, will restore a little bit of faith for some of us who want to believe in good. Because he is not the only good person in my life, there are multitudes of fine humans if you look!
Thanks to Eric’s wife Diana/Otterwise for the photo of him with braided beard and mohawk.