There are friends and then there is Phil Hoover. I first met Phil in the mid eighties. David Horton was the Minister of Music and I was the Minister of Christian Education at the Westmore Church of God. David, whose full-time job was teaching at Lee College, was preparing a special service at Westmore with the Campus Choir from Lee. Phil came with David to help set up some of the equipment. As best as I recall, it was a brief meeting, but if you ever meet Phil you will remember him.
Fast forward a dozen years and I met Phil for the second time. After Lee, he had spent a decade in the United States Air Force after which he enrolled in the Church of God Theological Seminary. I best remember him in my course “Foundations for Christian Formation.” We sang at least one song each class and I discovered Phil’s encyclopedic knowledge of church music with a special emphasis on all things Gaither. I also discovered his proclivity for details and his obsession with narrative.
While he was at the Seminary, Phil became one of Cheryl’s “lost boys.” That’s the name Alethea and Karisa gave to the single male students their mother adopted. They perceived Cheryl to be a cross between a super mother figure and Peter Pan, hence the “lost boys.” In this period Phil’s other dominant trait surfaced, he knows everybody. When you first get to know Phil you might be tempted to think he suffers from an inferiority complex that expresses itself in chronic lies about knowing prominent people; lies which are bolstered by outlandish descriptions of the places where he has traveled with those prominent people. But you would be wrong; he has been there and he does talk regularly by phone to all those people.
If I might digress, he is a phenomenal cook. His biscuits laugh at the charlatans you get at the Cracker Barrel. He channels your Great Aunt Bessie when he whips up a banana pudding. There ain’t nothing in the kitchen that boy hasn’t mastered and improved. Julia Childs looks down from heaven with envy.
When Phil decided to move to Chicago he called and asked if he could store a few things in our basement. My mother didn’t raise no fool, I advised him he would need to get Cheryl’s permission. I would let him store whatever he wanted in the loft of my barn but Cheryl decided what was stored in the house. He called her and she agreed. After all it was just for a couple of weeks and it was only a closet full of stuff. That was some closet; it filled one of our basement rooms. And two weeks turned into five years. Another five years after that and there’s still a closet full down there. But, what are friends for?
Phil’s the kind of friend who would give you his kidney. In fact, he did. One of our mutual friends, Bill George, was on dialysis. Phil felt impressed he was to give Bill a kidney. Sure enough when he was tested he was a match. Bill and Phil are doing well. I don’t know many people who would do that. My mother had chronic kidney problems and if she had gone on dialysis I believe I would have given her a kidney. If Cheryl, Alethea, Karisa, Charlie, Camdyn, Peanut, or one of my siblings needed a kidney they could have one. Shucks, my grand kids could have both of mine, but I would have to hear from God to offer one to anybody else. I’m just being honest. Not many of you have offered an organ to a non-family member either. On the other hand, maybe Phil just asked Bill to store it for a few weeks.
Phil calls often. We’re busy people and usually not here to get the calls. It’s when I do get his calls that I am most appreciative of Phil’s friendship. I don’t know if he remembers that my introduction to the telephone never blossomed into the romance most people seem to have with theirs. I never even courted mine. Most of the time I can't even tell you where my cell phone is. I am a phone-a-phobe; phones are necessary nuisances. I don’t like them. I need to see faces when I talk with people. When Phil calls he asks the pertinent questions, tells me something to make me laugh and excuses himself. Now that’s my kind of friend.
September 22, 2010