Aug 09, 2023

My brother Eric lives in the Netherlands. His mother was my father's office manager. Dad announced Eric's existence by asking Mom for a divorce.

Mom and Dad didn't end up getting divorced, but Mom was adamant that Eric know his father, who was also my father. When Eric was seven, he began spending each summer here in California with Mom and Dad.

Dad let me know about Eric by calling me the night before my finals in my senior year of college. Eric was two. Dad said without preamble, "Guess what? You got a baby brother! He's got big ol' hands and big ol' feet, so I know he's mine!"

I'd always thought of my father as a man not at all interested in anything but his job. It was mind warping to find out that he'd had an affair that produced a child, and that he'd been living a double life for several years. He'd introduced his second wife and infant son to some of his family in Iowa, and the Dutch Wictors had traveled the world together. When we thought Dad was off on business trips, he was actually vacationing with his unofficial wife and very official, legal son. I couldn't process it for an extremely long time.

After college I went to Japan, where I climbed into a bottle and stayed away from my family for five years. I can admit that now. When I returned, I met Eric. He was thirteen. Today he's thirty-three, and he's as much my brother as the three others. He's come to California to say goodbye to Mom.

It was never hard for Mom to accept Eric, but it was hard for Eric to accept Mom at first, since Mom was the ostensible reason Dad didn't go off to the Netherlands after all. Mom was "the other woman," which is funny, because she was my father's wife. That's how complicated Dad made it for everyone. Eric's mother said things that initially caused Eric to mistrust Mom. He was a little boy who didn't know what was real and what was wishful thinking. But Mom won him over. In fact, when Eric came out here to visit each summer, he'd spend more time with Mom than with Dad, because Dad would always have the need to get involved in some extended home-improvement project the day Eric showed up.

Eric is a lefty, like me, and he's a bassist, like me. So one summer we demolished an old Fender Precision bass I had and tried to turn it into a homemade MusicMan Sting Ray. We stripped off the finish, varnished it, put in a humbucker, installed a Badass bridge, and made a clear acrylic pick guard so you could see the wiring, guts, and copper shielding. We called it the Frankenbass. It's so heavy that Eric decided to leave it here, because it actually bent his spine when he played it all summer. It gave him temporary scoliosis. I kept the bass because it's so improbable on so many levels. And it's beautiful.

Today Eric is a a cyclist and an engineer who calculates stress loads for ships. He arrived this afternoon to say goodbye to the woman who opened her heart to him because she understood that he had no choice in how he came into the world.

When Dad died, I was the one who let Eric know. I phoned him at work, and he immediately said, "This is the call, isn't it?" Though upset, he kept it together.

Dad is gone, and Mom probably won't be with us much longer, but Eric will always be our brother. Lots of people have asked me how we could make Eric a member of the family. My response has always been, "How could we not?"

He's very brave. At seven years old, could you get on a jet and fly across the world alone to meet a family of much-older siblings who didn't speak your native language? And by seven, he already knew the circumstances of his birth. But he came out here every year, until he graduated from college and got a job. Then he could come only every two or three years.

We even hug now. He's a great guy, and he's still brave, coming to say goodbye to his second mother, the woman he was told he shouldn't trust.

She'll be glad to see him. They have almost a quarter-century of summer conversations behind them. While Dad was out in his workshop, hiding, Mom and Eric sat in the living room and talked. Mom saved all the crayon drawings he made and the origami-type paper toys he devised with his budding engineer's mind.

Mom and Eric will make it through this last conversation without any problems. I have full faith in both of them.