Barbara Cooper (left) spoke recently with her mother, Jody Houston, at StoryCorps in Abilene, Texas.
Barbara Cooper has a genetic disorder that speeds up her body's aging process. The condition, a form of progeria, also causes a shortened life span. Most people with progeria do not live past 13. But Cooper is 31 — a result of not having the heart problems and some other issues related to the disease.
Still, Cooper lost the vision in her right eye at age 11, and she has only partial vision in her left eye. "It really took me a long time to get used to it," she said recently while talking about that development with her mother, Jody Houston.
"What little vision I have now, it's enough to get me in trouble," Cooper said. "At least I have that for right now."
But she also has clear memories of everything she saw before her eyesight began to fail.
Her mother told her, "You remember your reflection, and that you will always be young in your mind."
"I was so excited to hear that," Houston said, "because now I'll be forever young in your eyes."
The two women talked of Cooper's childhood — and her fervent desire for a pair of hot-pink roller skates, something that can strike fear into the mother of a frail child.
Cooper got the skates on one condition: that she skate in the house, on deep shag carpet. But that compromise only lasted for a little while. Houston recalls that one day, her daughter put her hands on her hips and said, "You cannot keep me in this house forever."
"That moment opened up my eyes, really," Houston said. "I knew that you needed to go out there and skin your knees."
"I can't remember the last time I had a day where I felt good," Cooper said. "But it doesn't do me any good to sit around and complain about it."
Discussing the possibility that she could potentially outlive her daughter, Houston asked Cooper how she would like to be remembered if she does die before her mother.
Cooper answered, "That I did everything that I've ever wanted to do — and that you made that possible."
"Out of all of my surgeries, you have always been there when I woke up," she said. "You're the first person I've seen. I never had to worry, because you were always going to be there, holding my hand and talking to me.
"And I've enjoyed every moment with you — you've been my best friend," Cooper told her mother.
Produced for Morning Edition by Katie Simon. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.