My father, Philip Spencer, turns 90 next Tuesday, January 24th. Many of you know him from his years of visiting Thompson Church. When my mother was alive, she and my Dad counted three churches as their own—Media Presbyterian Church, where they were most Sundays; the Rehoboth United Church of Christ, where my brother Scott was then the pastor; and Thompson Memorial, where I am. They loved all three congregations but my parents were adamant about this: TMPC had the best covered-dish dinners, by a wide margin.
At 90 years old my Dad is a wonder. He still drives, and apart from rolling through the occasional stop sign that he deems unnecessary, he handles his Ford well. He is a great walker. His ideal day would be to take the train to Philadelphia and walk all over the city from City Hall to the Art Museum to South Street. I don’t think he is on any medications—if he is, maybe a pill here and there. He doesn’t have an artificial limb in his body, neither do his surviving siblings. His mind is quick and alert, kept sharp by cross-word puzzles, Sudoku, and bridge. My brothers and I all desperately hope that we have all of his genes.
As vital as my father is physically, he is also alive relationally and spiritually. A natural salesman, he can make friends and spark a conversation anywhere he goes. He is adored by his grandchildren. His three granddaughters all cherish the days they spend with him, as do my sons. Pop Pop, the name is known and loved by, does not sit in a corner like a potted plant. My Dad is always in the thick of any conversation. By turns funny and insightful, my one niece, Annik, once celebrated my Dad this way: “Thanks for being the coolest, funniest, kindest and hippest grandfather of all time!”
This weekend my family gathers to honor my Dad on his birthday. What a gift he is! What a blessing! What a gift he has been to me and my family and all his church families too.
Years ago in my twenties when I was single and a bit lonely I told a former college roommate of mine that I envied the relationship he had with a young woman, whom he later married. One of things that envy takes from us is perspective, for my friend answered me: Well I’m envious of your relationship with your Dad. I had never thought that someone could want what I had taken for granted. Since then, I have tried to never think that way again.