My Tribute to the Life of Patricia Cooper
On Sunday August 3, 2014, we lost my aunt Patricia, or “Trish” as she was known to me, to the illness she had battled for many years which I believe was Hepatitis based. This writing, however, is not about death or sadness or mourning. It’s about life. The life of one of the most amazing people I’ve ever known and a life that affected so many others in such a positive way. She is a huge part of who I am today and like a second mother to me, behind my own awesome matronly unit.
I have no memories of a life without Trish in it. She and my Uncle Mike have been married for almost my entire life (definitely at least around 40 years).
Their son, my cousin, Casey, was always like my little brother. About 4 years younger than me, I always looked forward to my time with them during school breaks, holidays and any time I got to see them. I have such vivid memories of raptly awaiting any time I knew they were coming to town. I would pace the driveway outside awaiting their arrival. Even more exciting was all the time I spent with them in Austin (they lived in Austin and I lived in College Station). To this day, they are still some of the most vivid, happy and formative memories of my life. Pure fun and debauchery. If your definition of debauchery is food, video games until the break of dawn, movies, mini-golf, and bowling. He had all the Garfield books, every Choose Your Own Adventure book and always the latest greatest console video game system. Intellivision is the one I remember the most for some reason. That and the awesome text adventure games on his Commodore 64. Sometimes, Casey and I pretended to be cats. His name was “Catrack” and I was “Clancy Cat.” I remember one particular trip when they were visiting us and some wooden shutters fell on Casey’s Head and he had to go to the hospital and get stitches.
Trish wasn’t just the mother figure. She was funny, nurturing, fun, creative and giving beyond words. We enjoyed spending time with her and having her with us and doing things with her. She read us stories in bed and did funny voices for characters. It might have been The Hardy Boys, among others, or else it was some other sleth sereies directed at kids. She shuttled us around town to Peter Pan Mini-golf, Westgate Lanes bowling, movies, McDonald’s, Barton Springs, Deep Eddy. Austin was pure magic to me. When I moved here in 2003, it was so strange as I started placing all these magical places geographically. Since I was shuttled around as a kid, I never really absorbed where they all were exactly.
I still vividly remember various places they lived. Quarry Rd., Copano Dr. I remember being at their place on Quarry Road when John Lennon was shot. I remember listening as a family to the new Styx album “Paradise Theater” and my uncle telling some stories related to the album (my uncle worked for Styx for many years as their monitor mixer).
We loved to go to Chuck E-Cheese. But even better was Scampi’s Pizza which had a huge gimmick-filled pipe organ! Or Showbiz pizza where the seeds of my Beatles fanaticism (they are now a part of my DNA and my biggest musical influence) were fed by the animatronic group, “The Beagles,” 4 dogs in Beatles attire who played and sang along to The Beatles version of “Twist and Shout.”
We loved going to the movies. TRON, Clash of the Titans and Disney’s The Black Hole are movies I particularly associate with my cousin and my magical times in Austin. We loved going to the mall. It started out as Highland Mall but eventually transitioned to Barton Creek. One of them, I can’t remember which, had an Aladdin’s Castle arcade. The only place I ever saw the Warrior arcade game which my cousin and I loved to play. We thought it was one of the coolest games ever.
I remember she used to take us to this little place in town called Whole Foods (at least I think it was Whole Foods) where we loved to get a bag of Carab Stars from the bulk candy bins. There was also a cool little toy store she would take us to whose name escapes me but I remember she bought me a couple of Clash of the Titans action figures there. Austin will always indelibly be associated and saturated with my Trish and Casey for me.
I remember how much I loved her cassette tapes of the Blues Brothers “Briefcase Full of Blues” and The Fabulous Thunderbird’s album with “Tuff Enough” and “Wrap It Up.” And she just gave them to me. That Blues Brothers Album became one of my all time favorites. So much so, I would make my cousin lip sync with me and perform the album. He was Jake and I was Elwood. Trish took us to the St. Vincent De Paul thrift shop to get fedoras. They weren’t Black like the Blues Brothers but I still loved them. One was brown and one was grey and I got an old briefcase from my grandfather and some handcuffs to handcuff it to my wrist like Elwood. I think I even had a harmonica to keep in there like he did.
I remember my uncle Mike had a left handed Fender bass that I was totally fascinated with and some microphone stands and Casey and I loved to set up the stands and act like rock stars lip syncing and playing to tapes. Again, I’m sure I was probably more into than Casey but he went along with it.
Trish also bought me my very first guitar amplifier and effects pedals. Mark Coppock (a friend of my uncle Jim) was selling them for $200 which may as well have been 2 million dollars to me at the time. I remember Trish coming into town for some reason and giving me an envelope with the money to get it. I don’t think my uncle Mike knew about it (sorry, and thanks, Mike!) It was a Sunn Beta Lead amp with a couple of DOD pedals. They would help me out financially several more times in my life during particularly tough times as well. They took me on ski trips with them. They were always what I looked forward to most about Thanksgiving and Christmas. We all loved to play board games together.
Over the years we all grew up and grew apart a little. I continued to visit my cousin into adulthood and even after I was married. Trish once commented how she thought it was cool how Jess, Casey and I had become a trio. It became increasingly difficult to get together with Casey though as he got busier in his own life with other friends and such. For a long time we still would usually gather at Christmas at Mike and Pat’s but then even that started to fade.
Casey got married and has his second child on the way and I pretty much don’t ever see him any more, even when they’re in town. I actually hadn’t talked to Trish in a couple of years. She had become increasingly tired throughout her illness. I left a message last Christmas but it wasn’t returned (again, I’m sure just because of the toll her illness was taking). I learned from Facebook that Casey and his wife, Jennifer were in town.
I’m not sure when exactly was the last time I spoke to Trish but I know it was at least a year or two ago. She was still herself but there was also a strange undertone to the conversation. She was getting sicker and she basically outright said something along the lines of how she just wanted to talk to me “in case she didn’t get to talk to me again.” And as it turned out, even though she had a few more years, she didn’t get to talk to me again.
I heard from my mom that Mike had called her and said Trish was not well and most likely wouldn’t last the month and that Casey and family were on their way. I texted Casey to let me know if there was anything I could do and to let me know if Trish was taking visitors. I was hoping to see her one last time. While that ended up not happening (I never heard back from him, as I’m sure he’s quite preoccupied and overwhelmed), I am someone who believes that things always happen as they should. I would have have liked to tell Trish what she meant to me and the effect she had on my life but as someone who likes to find the positive in every situation, I choose not to focus on that, but instead that I didn’t have to say goodbye. I’m not sure how that would have gone, being in the room, catching up with her, not wanting to leave or trying to discern when I should leave, knowing that I would truly be saying goodbye with the knowledge of the extent of its finality. I have to believe she knew what she needed to know and that it happened as it needed to happen.
Yesterday morning, I got an email from my mom that she had heard from her dad that Trish had passed away (I then had to go perform in Cyrano De Bergerac, which, in my heart and mind, I dedicated to her). I’ve never been a fan of the euphemisms such as “passed” and what not, but I use the terms I think will be the least painful for others. I envy the cultures of the world who do not fear death as this horrible event that shatters people’s lives but accept and celebrate it as part of the cycle. I feel like our culture has sculpted it into something so negative and saturated with pain and fear that sometimes we buy into that as what we are “supposed” to feel. Yes I am sad. Yes I can feel the absence of her presence in the world as we knew it but I will not be heartbroken and torn up inside because I know that’s not what she would want. I will celebrate her life and remember all the wonderful things she gave me and how she is very much a part of who I am today. I am not cold or unsympathetic. I merely choose the path of light and love and hope that I can send some of that into the world and to those who are hurting and need it right now.
I will also remember something else very important. There is something I have often said to people who have lost a loved one or even a pet. It’s something I truly believe. I always hesitate saying it because I don’t want to sound trite or cliché or have people think I’m just repeating the same rote words I say to everyone who loses someone, but I feel it’s important and apropos. There is a scientific law called The Conservation of Energy which states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed but can only change forms. What are we if not energy? Our “souls,” our personalities, our brain synapses, in the end must be energy of some sort. We don’t ever really “lose” anyone. Their energy cannot be destroyed. It can only change forms. It’s still here, present in the universe in some form. And the universe is a better place for Trish’s energy.