When I greet my dear wife, Tina Su Cooper, I often say, “How is my most precious person in the world, my numero uno?” I give her a kiss as she lies virtually motionless in bed, quadriplegic and on a ventilator, due to multiple sclerosis. She smiles and replies briefly but lovingly.
At bedtime last night I greeted her this way, but she objected, “I am not.”
“You are not what?”
“Your number one.”
“Of course you are. You are the center of my life, of our twenty-eight-year marriage. I frequently say, ‘Tina comes first, but everybody counts.’ I mean it.”
“Think about it, Ting. Who else is as important to me as you are? Not family, not friends old or new. No one.”
“But I can’t do anything.”
“Yes, we have lost some options. We cannot readily travel, but I was never big on travel. There are other losses, too, but we have a special marriage rather than a routine, conventional one. Who do you think I care about more than I care about you?”
She thought, and then pondered some more. “No one.”
“Right. You are the number one person in my life. Please believe it and remember it. I am the number one person in yours. That is the nature of our situation, of our love, of our marriage.” I kissed her goodnight…on the cheek, so as not to transmit any germs.
When I saw Tina this morning, her spirits had lifted. I addressed her as usual as “my most precious person in my world.“
I asked her, “What’s your number?”
Tina smiled. “One. What’s your number?”