He’s finally as old as me

Heith Wilkinson.

So many words to describe this guy.

Manly. Funny. Tender hearted. Loyal.

Did I mention manly?

Doing the math, I’ve known Heith for well, many years.

Our first encounter was at his folks’ supper table, when I was 17 years old and he was in junior high.

Neither of us spoke much . . . for the obvious reason that we were both terrified. I was scared to speak because the woman sitting next to me was the mother of the boy I had started dating.

Heith didn’t speak . . . probably because there was a teenage girl sitting at their table, period.

We bonded over time. I’d watch Heith’s brother, the boyfriend, wash his car while Heith would help.

It was just small talk, but I quickly learned that he loved sports and was gearing up to join the Elgin Eagle football team just as soon as he became a freshman.

High school, in his eyes, was a far-off dream of excitement and grandeur.

“You have to get as old as us to know what high school is really like,” I’d warn him with all my post-pubescent wisdom.

Not only did he become a freshman . . . he became one heck of an athlete. Heith Wilkinson quickly became famous as one of the most prolific and talented guys on any Eagle team. He could do it all.

Heith grew into his own, once he reached high school, and the two of us were able to finally hold prolonged conversations. I found that Heith was quite the romantic, looking for that one special girl.

He wasn’t a player – he just wanted a special relationship with someone fun, and I suppose cute. After all, his manliness (at that point) was already starting to show.

He’d date here and there . . . always wondering when he’d find the one. I would always tell him he’d have to wait until he was as old as me to know what true love felt like.

True to form, being in the family he was, he drove a sports car. His was a red Camaro. It made him flashier for the ladies.

He wore stylish stonewashed jeans and had the latest haircuts.

But he was never cocky. He never thought he was too cool for the rest of mankind.

He was just Heith, to himself. To me, he had become my new brother.

When Heith’s biological brother and I decided to get married . . . I don’t remember anyone being more on board than Heith.

Of course, he was excited that he was going to be the best man . . . but I always secretly hoped that maybe he was excited to have me as a sister-in-law.

“How’s it feel to be getting married?” he asked, as we left the altar after taking pictures on the day of my nuptials.

I told him it was wonderful, kind of scary and pretty strange. Someday, when he was as old as me, he’d understand.

I became an “old married lady” and Heith fell in love . . . for real this time. I watched, from afar, as their relationship grew and I could see this was the big love of his life.

When he finally put a ring on her finger, I knew it was the genuine thing. And as I sat in the church, on that rainy summer day, watching him tell her he’d love her forever, I smiled because while I was still a few years older than him, I saw that he was now nearly as old as I was. Heith had become a man.

He followed his passion and became an expert in the world of physical training and fitness.

Thereby, the manliness increased . . . but I realized that Heith had grown into not just a physically handsome person, but the beautiful part of his spirit only became enhanced.

As I moved past 30, I’d groan because my back ached and he’d preach to me what exercises would help. I would grow tired of his expert advice and only tell him to “wait until you get as old as me.”

He watched as his brother and I struggled to raise my teenage sisters . . . sometimes he’d tell me not to worry so much.

“Things will turn out just fine,” he’d tenderly say. I’d tell him to just wait . . . he’ll see when he’s my age and has kids to raise.

Well, that time arrived . . . and did it ever. A daughter, another daughter . . . and surprise, identical twin girls. Those wonderful little gems are getting to be as tall as I am now and the teenage years are just over the horizon.

I promise to encourage him when sleep gives way to worry and antacids become part of the four food groups.

When I turned 40, Heith loved making jokes about it.

“Wow, someone turned 40, huh?” he’d laugh. “Whew! It’s probably your bedtime already!”

“You just wait,” I warned again. “And here’s the thing . . . once you turn 40, then we’re all the same age. The plateau starts there . . . so once you hit the big 40, we are equals.”

And that plateau will be achieved this week (yes, this was written a while back). Yes, Heith Wilkinson’s odometer will hit 40. (And it’s gone to 50 since then).

So my birthday message to my brother-in-law is this: I watched you mature and grow from a great young guy to a strong, resilient man.

I’m proud of the husband and father you’ve become. And I appreciate the relationship we’ve had down that road, as you allowed me to be your sister.

Oh, and by the way . . . one last time . . . you’re finally the same age as me. I told you it would hurt.



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