I found out his wife had died about two months after her funeral. I rushed out and bought a condolence card. I never got a chance to send it. He dropped by one day, so I gave to him. He opened it and read what I had written in big letters across the top, "Fuck You, Coop!"
I guess that most people would think that it was a heinous thing to do. But it wasn't. Rather, it was just how we greeted each other during our fifty plus years of friendship. Cooper laughed his ass off and replied the same way that he had for hundreds of other times, "Fuck you, Dougie."
He always called me Dougie and was one of only four people that I didn't mind doing it.
He was OG member of the Brotherhood of Blood and Bone, an unofficial organization of the kids who grew up in the 60s and 70s on the south side of Corcoran, an area bound by Bainum to the North, Dairy to the West, 5 1/4 Avenue to the East and Alpaugh to the South.
He is a member of the Mark Twain League Touch Football Hall of Fame. A great pass rusher and tight end, he also played a passable game of basketball but lost over five hundred games of Twenty-One to either me or Frankie Renteria.
Much of his early outlook on life was formulated while looking out on the world through the screen windows of Pop's Candy Store. He studied philosophy there and also learned to cuss and put peanuts in his sodas. Cooper matriculated at Mark Twain Elementary School, considered at that time, as being the finest educational institution between Bainum and Oregon Avenue.
I got the news of his death while at basketball practice in Visalia. I didn't cry, but I later drove the length of Mooney Blvd without paying much attention to what I was doing. That night, I spent most of the night trying to justify why we didn't see each other more often when we grew up. I couldn't come up with a single valid reason.
I never had a conversation with Cooper where he didn't make me smile and laugh, even the last one when he told me how his wife had passed while everyone thought he was going to die. It was only time I ever saw him cry, yet it only lasted for a moment before he was back making my ribs hurt.
We made plans to take in a Rawhide game, and then maybe since we were both free from domestic constraints, take in a Giant game or two. We went for a long ride on the West Side of the valley the next day and talked nonstop the whole time we were gone. When he got out of my car, he bumped his head on the ceiling of the car and told me I needed to get a bigger vehicle. I told him he needed to lose some of that noggin. It was the last time I ever saw him.
If I ever make it heaven, I'm going to look him up. I'll walk up to where he's sitting and tell him something like, "Coop, you remember that time I saw your dog licking my dog's butt?"
He'll look at me, shake his head, grin with those big sad eyes, and look over his shoulder to make sure St. Peter ain't listening and reply, "Fuck you, Dougie."