HALF-FULL GLASSES

by Douglas Winslow Cooper

  “Love conquers all,” Tina’s father, Professor Su, said,  toasting us at our post-wedding meal. As one of the conquered, he would know. Parental opposition to our interracial marriage helped produce the twenty-year separation between our parting in June 1964 at Cornell and my marrying his daughter, Tina Su, in June 1984 in my apartment in Bedford Hills, NY. Twenty years lost.

The optimist is said to view as half-full the same glass that the pessimist views as half-empty. My glass and Tina’s, at our marriage’s beginning, were both nearly brimming.  At forty-one and forty, respectively, we still had the energy to do what most people of that age do. Tina’s younger son, Phil, had accompanied her when her first marriage dissolved, and he was ours to bring up from age three. Tina’s elder son, Ted, had chosen to stay with his father, and it would be a decade before he reconciled, at age nineteen, with Tina and me. Tina found adequate fulfillment in being wife and mother, and my scientific career was going well. We had as friends those who were not put off by our mixed-race pairing—educated friends, some of them parents of Phil’s buddies.

As we had done at Cornell, Tina and I walked hand-in-hand, hither and yon, in the first few years of our marriage. If you looked closely, you noticed her steps were small and slow. Within ten years, she could walk no more. Her multiple sclerosis (MS), diagnosed several years before we married, had gradually taken her ability to walk. In the twentieth year of our marriage, an MS attack took away all movement below the neck, nearly costing her life as it was precipitated by an aspiration-caused pneumonia and systemic infection. She was left quadriplegic, ventilator-dependent, unable to take food or medicines by mouth. After a hundred-day battle in the intensive care unit of the local hospital, she was discharged with a grim prognosis. Our options were a gentle death in a hospice setting or a rugged fight to live, at home.  Her choice, and mine, was home. With the help of our doctors and our in-home nurses, we have won that fight for eight years.

Our metaphorical glasses are no longer full. People value things largely by their usefulness and their scarcity; water is useful but plentiful, thus cheap; silver is useful but rare, thus expensive. Tina still enjoys her life, despite its limits. She loves and is loved. She remains interested in people, places, nature, music, ideas, family, friends, staff, neighbors, community, and the world.

At Tina’s urging, I have written a book about us, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage and Devotion [see amazon.com]. A love story, a tribute to Tina, a thank-you to all who have supported us, a how-to for at-home intensive care management, the book shows that even under our circumstances, life can be, as one product used to boast, “good to the last drop.”

3 Comments:

  1. Hello Douglas,
    Thank you for sharing your story of deep love and commitment between you and your beloved wife Tina.
    You both sound like amazing and courageous individuals. I am sorry Tina’s MS has taken the turn it has, however, what an example to others of love, devotion and courage between the two of you!
    It is so touching and I am blessed to hear about choosing to risk and love, despite what may be consequences. I am sure there had been much thought and careful consideration but you both knew what was important.
    My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with you for continued love and resiliency as you face life with love and hope!
    God’s best to you both,
    Janet Gildred

    • Dear Janet,

      Thank you for your gracious comments. Whenever we fall in love, we risk heartbreak, as you know. Tina and I feel blessed to have gotten a second chance to be together, and we believe that every day is a blessing. I was asked what advice I would give to others, and came up with: choose someone worthy of your devotion, and do not make a fuss about small things. This is not so different from the advice to “love…and do as you please,” with the assumption that what is done out of love almost always will be correct.

      We do feel that God has blessed us: perhaps we were “fated to be mated,” perhaps we were just very fortunate, perhaps a bit of both.

      Warmly,
      Doug Cooper

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