He is sitting in an oversized bean bag chair, with a dark haired boy in his lap. The child is about five years old, still young enough to want to hear stories sitting in his father's lap. His chin rests gently on the top of the child's head and he looks down at the photo album open on their laps. The child has heard the stories before, but that doesn't stop him from pointing to a man in a photograph and asking, "Who's that?"
"That's your cousin, Rian, doing the chicken dance when your mom and I got married." The boy laughs and his father can feel it against his chest. He loves these moments with his son, when he has all his attention and can make him giggle. "I'll tell you a secret, buddy, the chicken dance song wasn't even playing." He hears the child laugh again and he joins in this time. He doesn't know his cousin very well, but he'd always gotten along with the younger man whenever they came to visit or his own family made the rare trip to Boston and his mother had insisted they be invited to the wedding, even if Coop felt like he was asking a lot for them to come. They'd come anyway.
"Who's the lady next to him?" Coop looked at the picture and the redhead shaking her head at her husband. "Your cousin Bea," he said, "She's married to Rian. Their daughter is Clementine and she's right," he trailed off, searching the pictures for the photo of his mother with a baby on her lap, "There. She's just a year older than you." He wished he had newer pictures of his cousins and their children to show Jacob, but he really doesn't know them well enough to ask for those kinds of things and he has no idea how Facebook works.
"And that's mommy, right?" he asks, looking up at Cooper while his finger finds an auburn haired woman standing in an elegant white dress, cutting a massive four tiered cake with Cooper himself. "Yeah, buddy. That's mommy." Jake's tone is solemn when he speaks again and Coop tightens his grip around the child's waist. "I miss her." It is moments like these that Coop struggles with, being a single father. "Me too, Jake."
They lost her six months ago to cancer. It had started in her breasts and made its way to her lymph nodes and by the time they caught it, it was too late. They'd given her four months and she'd lasted five. It was Cooper's greatest worry that Jake would forget his mother. That was why he felt these nights of looking through photo albums and watching videos was so important. He wanted Jake to remember his mom and to know his other relatives, even if it was just through stories.
"Can we take her flowers tomorrow?" the child asks and Cooper nods. "Of course we can. And maybe after that we can get a milkshake, what do you think?" The boy nods enthusiastically and Coop has to smile. Jake never seemed to dwell too long on missing his mom and sometimes it was a relief. He isn't sure where the boy's thoughts go when he's alone, but Cooper's always seem to go back to Lara.
He lays in bed that night after making sure Jake is sound asleep in his own bed and stares at the ceiling. "I hope he turns out just like you," he whispers to the ether, hoping somehow his dearly departed wife will be able to hear him. "I just hope I don't screw it up. I want you to be proud of him. Of both of us. His laugh sounds exactly like yours did when we were in school. God, I remember that like it was yesterday." He laughs to himself and then snorts. "You'll never guess who I ran into the other day in town. Luke. Get this, though. It was Luke and his boyfriend Todd." He laughs again recalling the encounter.
Luke had been standing in line in front of him at the bagel shop and he was with a friend. Or so Cooper had surmised. But when Luke laughed, touched the other man's arm tenderly and then leaned in to kiss him, Cooper's eyes had just about bugged out of his head. He'd had to bite both of his lips together and bring his hand up over his face to obscure his surprise when Luke had turned and seen him behind them. He looked Coop up and down once but didn't say a word before turning back to the counter to order his bagel. They didn't exchange a single word, but Cooper could understand why he might not have wanted to chat. After all, Luke had been the one teasing Coop about being gay when it turned out Luke himself was gay.
"I'm happy for him," he says to the ceiling, "He's still obnoxious, but at least he's not a bully anymore. God, I wish you could have seen it." Cooper sighs softly and rolls onto his side, facing the empty half of the bed next to him. "I miss you," he says, closing his eyes. "I miss you so much, Lara, I don't know if I can do this by myself." It's not the first time he's said that out loud, and not just to Lara. He's said it to his mother a handful of times at least. "I'm going to try, though. I'm going to make you proud. I'm going to be that superman you always thought I was."
He doesn't have a choice. His little boy needs him. He needs him to be strong, to be an example of what it means to be a man, to teach him right from wrong, to pass on the knowledge he gained from his father and to make the best damn brownies in the universe. All washed down with a cold glass of fresh milk, of course.