Unauthorized Pilgrim Profile: Terry Wilkin ('92)

Author: Timothy Deenihan

My former roommate is proof that you should always think of your physician as the responsible, professional medic they are now – and not the college kid they were when, for example, Terry Wilkin (’92) showed up to Moriarty’s Pub dressed as an exceptionally well-endowed Lady Di. It was the London Program Hallowe’en party, sure, but honestly, the photographs I have in my possession should guarantee me free healthcare for life.

Terry’s now an interventional radiologist at Saint Joseph Medical Center and married to a kind, understanding, and exceptionally patient woman whose intelligence is only questioned by her choice of husband. So you can understand why he might be nervous about me writing an ‘Unauthorized’ Pilgrim Profile on him.

Terry was never lackluster in his studies, I hasten to point out. He’s a work-hard-play-hard kind of guy, which is actually how we met. We both lived in Zahm but I didn’t really know him until the day after Saint Patrick’s our freshman year. We had both managed to completely fail at celebrating Saint Pat’s there on the campus of the Fighting Irish. Terry had spent the whole night studying for a test which, if I remember, got postponed. My reasons were less noble. St Pat’s is my birthday and my girlfriend and I had been celebrating ‘away from the crowd’. I met Terry as he was standing in my room complaining to my freshman roommate about this travesty in his college experience and we both decided to celebrate The Day After Saint Patrick’s by drinking up for lost time.

A lifelong friendship was born – and has since been forever secured by each’s knowledge of the other’s capacity for blackmail.

Terry’s always had my back. Sophomore year, after I found myself stood up for a formal, Wilkin donned his coat and, in the spirit of George Bailey, ran the length and breadth of campus calling Merry Christmas! to every building until arriving at Walsh, where this young lady resided. He then spent at least a full minute wishing Merry Christmas to everyone in the hall, except her – who he called out by name and proceeded to berate with impressive creativity on my behalf. If you lived in Walsh in the fall semester of ’89 and remember two loud boys screaming Merry Christmas at your dorm from the snow on South Quad, that was Wilkin and me. Apologies.

Bacardi may have been involved.

I’ve done my best to be a solid best friend in return. The last day of sophomore year (Christ, how did we make it out of sophomore year?) there was revelry in the War Memorial which evidently included a shard of glass hidden beneath the surface of the cold water. Terry gashed his foot but didn’t realize it until he was standing in our room in a literal pool of blood. At something like the very next instant there was a pounding at the door and King – that’s Father King, then rector of Zahm – was bellowing from the hall “THERE’S A TRAIL OF BLOOD THROUGH THIS DORM AND IT LEADS HERE!! WHAT HAPPENED?!”

“It’s all good, Father,” I reassured him, opening the door crosseyed, which, upon reflection, probably wasn’t very reassuring. “I got it. Totally under control.”

Bacardi likely had a hand in that one, too.

Then there was the time he and a friend went off campus to get haircuts and I called the salon pretending to be a doctor from Saint Joseph’s Medical Center Psychiatric Ward. I described Terry and Rick, our friend, and explained they were escaped patients. “You don’t need to worry,” I remember saying in my best trust-me-I’m-a-doctor voice, “if they were any threat at all, they’d’ve been in a higher security ward. It’s just that one of them,” I went on to say, channeling Fraser Crane, “has what is called a ‘Samson Complex’ and fully believes that all his strength comes from the hair on the front-right part of his scalp. It is imperative that your stylist absolutely not touch this part of his head.”

Yeah. I said that.

It’s worth noting at this point that Terry grew up in town. Thus, when the two of them left the salon and the worried stylists called the police to help retrieve the wayward patients, it took very little time for South Bend’s Finest to show up at Mrs Wilkin’s door.

Terry was not amused. And Bacardi, for once, was completely absent.

There was the time we got locked in to the pub in Cork, the time we locked ourselves in to the pub in the basement of the hotel in London, and The Story Of The Pheasant (indeed, threatening to release the pheasant photos was the only way to coerce him into sending me a current and usable photograph for this profile...). We also studied sometimes. We also played a lot of pool.

Terry was my best man and I was his. He and his bride met in med school, and I remember speaking with him on the phone, hearing about the girl in his Gross Anatomy group. When she was first mentioned, it wasn’t in any romantic sense – which should tell you something about how very special she was from the start. I’m terrible with names, but I remembered the name of someone I’d never met just on account of the way my friend talked about her.

We’ve always kept on each other’s radar over the years, as roommates do, even if we’ve great distances of time and geography between us. He was healing the sick in Africa while I was on a tv series in Liverpool. That he’s now a doc at the very hospital I claimed he had escaped from all those years ago is ironic in a way he seems finally able to enjoy. He and his much better half have a young son who runs rings around my teenage daughters every time we’re back for a game.

Terry Wilkin is frankly one of the finest people I know, but please never tell him I said so. He’s got that rub-dirt-in-it-and-take-a-lap callousness on the surface that shelters limitless empathy when called for. He’s a romantic mush who loves Christmas and When Harry Met Sally and seems to have dialed back on the Bacardi and shifted his palate to red wine since our days on campus. He called me in the supermarket to let me know he’s walking the three-day leg of the Trail, and can’t wait to introduce him to all my new friends as we make our way back to campus.

I might even share a photograph or two.

About The ND Trail Blogger

Tim Deenihan ('92) is a writer, an actor, an impatient philosopher, and the only man in a house of four women. If you're ever in Seattle, look him up - he makes a wicked margarita and a mean manhattan. If you can't get to Seattle, you can find him on twitter as @tinangel. Walk with Tim in August. Join Us.