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The Ruidoso morning sun would barely be creeping through the windows, I’d be lying there in a half-dream state hearing his footsteps coming down the hall way passing through our bedroom as he darted into the bathroom for his morning shower. I can still remember the room, the furniture, the excitement I would feel about the day ahead. Dad would burst through the room and say, “Rock and roll, little lizards!” A few minutes later we would be in the car, donuts in hand, smiling little faces as we turned that final winding corner looking at up at the face of Capitan. Dad was a great athlete and loved all sports. He was always asking, “What’s the plan?” meaning what where we going to do that day? He loved to keep moving. He was an All-State football player, a scratch golfer and club champion, a basketball player that I used to watch in the gym as a boy as he launched another 3 ball. I could hear the men on the other team chastising the guy guarding Dad, “You got to get up on him, you can’t let Coop shoot it!” Dad taught me a love of sports, of competition, of movement. These times on the slopes in Ruidoso as a boy are some of my most favorite memories as a family. It was as much as anything, an identity. Something that we didn’t do so much as something we were. Dad was a natural born salesman. First, he’s a story teller. All the Coopers are, a badge we wear with pride. He had a seemingly endless Rolodex of “inspired by true events” stories that he accessed whenever the mood was right. Maybe all slightly embellished over the years as any good story teller does with a set of circumstances, but all crafted to get you to a point. A destination. He’s guiding you there all the time. By the time you know it’s happening, you’re already there. It’s just what he did; he connected with people and led them to his conclusion. As a young boy, his shadow loomed over me as I wondered if I could ever do what he’d done, go the places he’d gone, achieve the things that he’d achieved, be the man that he seemed to me to be then. Larger than life. It would be several years later, after some years where I had let him and myself down, where he would pick me up in the car at my Albuquerque apartment at 5 AM as we would head south toward Ski Apache. It was two men trying to find their common ground again, and father and son heading out for a day on the slopes. Skiing was my first love, the first thing I was ever really gifted at and would eventually be able to do as well as Dad and even exceed him. I loved the pride in his voice when we would stop together, survey our path below, and he’d say,”Tear it up, Son!” These moments were important in my life, to realize I could do something as well or better than him and to hear his pride in me watching me do something I was good at. It empowered me. Maybe even better were the conversations. Anyone who has ever skied knows the downtime on the lift, coupled with a three hour drive each way, and the conversations that one might have the time to have. No distractions, radios, televisions, cell phones, none of that. Just a young man and his dad. It was there he taught me, led me, guided me to the conclusions that he already knew. I could be successful, like him. Do the things he’d done. Even exceed his accomplishments as is the dream of all good fathers for their children. Using a skiing metaphor, he would tell me “Don’t look at the tips of your skis, extend your vision.” It was during these conversations he built me, helped restore my confidence, and prepared me to become a man he would be proud of. I was contemplating the biggest career move of my life, up to that point and time. Funny now as I reflect back on it over 15 years later, it seems so small. That’s probably how he saw it then too if I’m being honest with myself. But he never said that at all, he just listened. His tone over the years with me had changed from the “this is what I would do” model he employed with me as a young man to more of being a guiding force, who just listened and occasionally pointed me back in the right direction. The time was spent mostly letting me talk through it myself and find the answer in my own time. I was considering leaving my first sales job ever, something that I loved and made me also realize that I had a bit of his spark in me when it came to selling. I would call him after my day and recap my successes. I knew he could sense in me that I had found my path, how I could make a living, and I could sense his pride. I was interviewing for a new role, they had offered me the job. It was less money than I was making before, but there was commission. I was nervous about it, knowing that performance based pay meant that I would have to be successful or risk making significantly less. I asked him what do, go for it or stay where I was and play it safe. Playing it safe wasn’t his style; he said to go for it. I could do it. I did and never looked back. That small step led to another, and now over 15 years later this job has become a career. One in which I have had success, and has provided a good life for my family. Though the stakes are larger now, the problems bigger, his perspective has still been my guide. My mentor. I would call him and he would still give me the same confidence and advice, he would ask me again to “extend my vision”. To make sure I wasn’t just negotiating for a larger slice of the pie, but was trying to make the pie bigger so everyone got a bigger slice. It was often these conversations that were the baseline for our frequent phone calls over the years. He never complained about his health, instead he and I would the review the various challenges in our respective careers. One of the things I am most proud of in my career is that I eventually earned enough respect from him that I sometimes would get to provide guidance and feedback to him too. These moments meant so much to me. I often wonder what else he could have achieved had he not had to battle illness for the last 18 years. All the things in life that he successfully juggled while fighting to maintain his health, sometimes it amazes me. Once, many years ago while in a hospital bed, wearing a gown, and facing another dire challenge he gave Ryan and me a gift. Teary eyed and proud, he presented us each a watch engraved with the words “All-Pro”, one from 2003 and one from 2005. This was the top honor in his company for sales people, the best of the best, and Dad had achieved this not once, but twice, often times making sales calls while battling symptoms, during hospital stays, and pushing through hurdles that would leave many people curled up in a ball. Dad faced these challenges with grace, optimism, and privacy never wanting to burden others. I was proud of his work achievements and our common career path. I often wear the watch Dad gave me when facing a complex negotiation, or large presentation, anything that’s significant enough that I feel channeling a bit of Dad’s MOJO might be beneficial. As I was calling some of Dad’s work colleagues this week, the stories were similar. One former colleague in particular mentioned to me that when they were tasked as a sales division to begin calling on natural gas plants for the first time, all were worried about this except him. He said his strategy was simple, “Just get the appointment, and bring Michael Cooper”. Now, as I reflect on things in hindsight and as often happened, I might have missed the metaphor of the watch. Maybe it’s not just a career achievement of Dad’s to be proud to wear. Maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with business at all. It’s possible what he was giving me is a reminder, live in the moment, don’t stress about things that are out of my control, and take advantage of my time. After all is said and done, that’s all I wish for…a little more time. It’s hard to collect your breath in that moment of a loved one passing and find the grace to say that you are thankful, but with a bit of perspective and thinking about the way Dad would view things himself, I am. We waited for a miracle while in the hospital that seemed like it never came. It did come, just not how I wanted it to be at the time. We were lucky to be able to be with him, spend time, and support one another. One of his legacies is a family that has the means, emotional, financial, and spiritual to deal with difficult times. He would be proud. But again, his vision would have looked past the last 50-60 days and he would see the view of the last 10 years. Ten years of what might have been borrowed time, that would mean he got to watch me grow up and have career success, see me fall in love and get married to my amazing wife, buy our first home, and bring our two beautiful daughters, Ella and Hannah, home from the hospital. That was the miracle, and he knew it too. I watched him a few short weeks ago, completely at ease here in Granbury, drive my daughters around in his golf cart and just be content having them around. Age and grandfather-hood had softened him a bit and I know how much he loved my girls and what they meant to him. He and I had a conversation one morning where he talked to me about his legacy he would leave when he was gone someday, and what he wanted to provide for them. I will not allow my grief to drown out my gratitude. For the life he helped provide to me, for leading and believing in me when I needed it most, for having confidence and pride in me. For loving me and my girls. I will always carry Dad with me. Seek to make him proud. Strive to live up to his ambitions. And teach my daughters his wisdom and love. I love you, Dad. Sean


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