There was a lot of excitement in Atascosa County on Sept. 16, 1983. That night Jourdanton and Poteet were facing off at Aggie Stadium. Pleasanton was playing against Carrizo Springs and Charlotte was taking on Center Point. In the end, only Jourdanton would come away victorious, beating Poteet 27-14. Pleasanton lost 33-7 and Charlotte lost 14-13.
Two-hundred miles away at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bryan there was also excitement because my older brother, David Heath Whitaker, was born. The family chose to call him Heath (a decision which would cause me problems at 10 years old).
By the time he was 3, Heath was looking for a younger brother named Stephen. He had to wait until he was 6 years old before I made my debut. From the time I was born I became the greatest thing to happen to little Heath. Almost as soon as I made it home from the hospital he was bringing kids over from school to show off his new brother.
I was the most popular kid in the neighborhood, or at least that’s what the poster outside of our house said. We should have charged admission.
As far as older brothers go I couldn’t have a better one. Heath would chauffeur me around our neighborhood by pulling my wagon with his Power Wheels Jeep. It was quite a way to see and be seen by the people.
When it came time for me to play soccer in our first autumn living in Lufkin he happened to be the referee for my 5-year old league. He was a fair ref and helped explain to me the differences of world football and American football. In one you tackle the ball, not the player.
He also taught me to not be afraid of a baseball by tossing a few my way. Perhaps the greatest sporting move he taught me though was how to do Hakeem Olajuwon’s dream shake on a basketball court.
Growing up we had similar interests. He was also firm in explaining why I couldn’t root for Duke (his favorite school growing up), but there was their rival UNC that I could root for. NC State was off limits for both of us (another column for another day).
We also enjoyed playing together with Legos, although early on I Godzilla ed a lot of his towns. I eventually found the best way to get along was to build and not destroy.
As he reached the age where colleges came calling, I learned that his first name wasn’t Heath. For a 10-year-old that is quite a day when you find out the whole family has been calling your brother by his middle name and not his first name.
As we’ve gotten older he continues to be a fount of wisdom and every once in a while drops a zinger of a joke. Sometimes he even calls me to ask me a question about something he might not know about.
I now watch him as he raises his two daughters, Ella and Olivia. In those two I can see the same strong bond of siblinghood that he and I had. It’s the same strong bond I saw on both my mom’s and dad’s side between aunts and uncles who were their sisters and brothers. I’ve learned a lot from my older brother as well as the brothers and sisters of my parents.
If you are lucky enough to still have siblings roaming this planet with you give them a call sometime and catch up. Even if it is just to ask how they think the Astros will do in the playoffs.
If you are still a youngster, be good to your siblings, whether they are older or younger. For one day that sibling of yours will be the aunt or uncle to your children. Think about that.
Happy Birthday, Heath. And let us raise a toast to all siblings everywhere.