Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., a retired environmental physicist, lives in southern New York State with his beloved wife, Ting Su Cooper, a former editor at the Encyclopedia Britannica and mother of two. Ting is the central figure in Dr. Cooper’s book, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion, available from Amazon. Barnes and Noble, or their website, http://tingandi.com.
Ting Han Su and I fell in love at Cornell University in 1963. We have loved each other now for almost half a century.
“Su Ting-ting”, known to me as Ting, was born in China and came to America at the age of two. Ting, growing up as a minority population member, was comfortable with my being Caucasian. Although she was my first non-white girlfriend, her slender figure and delicate facial features epitomized feminine beauty. Our racial differences were not a hurdle in loving one another. We shared so many interests, and although interracial relationships were still rare, even on campus, no one made a fuss. It was easy to overlook the realities of the culture of the 1960s.
By graduation, it was apparent that our families were not as accepting of the racial differences as the college world. Maybe if we had been older, more willing to move or challenge our families, our lives would have been very different. “If only” is a pointless exercise. We said our tearful good-byes, with hopes that someday we would be together.
Wait nineteen years.
1983. February. I telephoned Ting while passing through Chicago. Ting was in in an unhappy marriage. She spoke of her thoughts of divorce, her two boys, and her recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, a disorder that has now left her a quadriplegic, breathing with a ventilator and feeding with a gastric tube. After all these years we still loved each other deeply. As foolish as this sounds, one telephone call, one sleepless night, and one question, “Will you marry me?” and our lives changed forever.
“Yes, yes, yes!”
With courage and trust in each other we met, faced the difficulties of her divorce, married with our parents’ support and survived the years of estrangement of one of her sons.
Together we held each other up through step-parenting, deteriorating health, and Ting’s loss of physical freedom. We married for better or worse, in sickness and in health. We knew race could be an issue. It was manageable. We knew Ting might be severely disabled. We accepted and prepared for that. The opportunity to be “together forever” [our motto] outweighed the opportunities lost. We viewed Ting’s disability as happening to both of us rather than to Ting alone, and we have faced it as a team, a chance to be heroic in an often un-heroic world. That one unlucky element in our lives has been outweighed by the good fortune of being together.
To have met, fallen in love, remained in love, reunited in love —all is fate or great good luck. We have felt the power of love and know the value of life, even with severe disabilities.