A memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion
Douglas Cooper has written a dramatic, heart wrenching, and in the end heart warming, true life account of his relationship and eventual long marriage with his wife Ting. The book is titled: Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion and the title is a truly apt describtion of the story in the book.
In reading a summary of the book I was deeply touched by Mr. Cooper’s love for and devotion to his wife but wasn’t sure how it would fit in with my typical politically oriented author interviews. In discussing this issue with Mr. Cooper we found there were some significant social, and thus political, issues involved and thus decided to do the following interview as well as a live radio interview on my Books and Politics Show on Monday night, August 19th at 7 p.m. California time. Please listen in at: www.blogtalkradio/angelsandwarriors.
I will first discuss the book itself since it is a truly touching story and one I am sure many of you will be interested in reading.
Then, as you might expect, we will drift into some serious social and political issues.
So, let’s get started:
1. Douglas, before we get into your book could you briefly tell us about your background.
I lived in Manhattan until my early teens, subsequently moving to Walden, NY, a town of about five thousand, where I went to high school. I graduated tops in my class, won a Regents Cornell Scholarship and received my bachelor’s degree in physics at Cornell. I worked for IBM near my hometown for six months, got drafted into the U.S. Army and, after Basic Training, served at the Ft. Detrick biological warfare and defense installation, with a Secret clearance, doing research on early detection of biological agents. That led to work at Penn State and my M.S. in physics with an environmental thesis, followed by my Ph.D. at Harvard in engineering, again with a topic related to environmental evaluation.
In my thirties, I worked in contract research on pollution control, followed by years of teaching and research at the Harvard School of Public Health. I left as an Associate Professor and worked for a decade at IBM’s Yorktown Heights Research Center, again doing research on environmental questions…primarily contamination control.
After ten years there, I took an early retirement package from IBM, worked another half-dozen years for a small firm in the contamination control field, and retired at 58, partly to help care for my disabled wife, Tina Su Cooper, who has multiple sclerosis.
We moved to the countryside, where I have helped with Tina’s care and eventually came out of profound retirement to establish a small business helping others to write and publish their memoirs, as I did with TING AND I in 2011.
Before retiring, I had authored or co-authored over 100 scientific papers published in peer-reviewed technical journals and was made a Fellow of the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology.
THIS DESCRIBES PRIMARILY YOUR PROFESSONAL CAREER, BUT WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING ON THE POLITICAL FRONT?
I was born Republican and was politically active at Cornell and one of the leaders of college conservatives at Penn State and Harvard. In 1968 in Central Pennsylvania I was elected to the Republican National Nominating Convention, where Richard Nixon was nominated.
In retirement, after writing my memoir, TING AND I. I established a blog in which I discussed a wide variety of topics, some of them having political implications.
2. Now for the book. Could you begin by telling us how you first met?
As a physics major at Cornell, I had a language requirement that I could have satisfied with French, but I decided to study Chinese, as I found the written language’s characters intriguing and I expected China to become progressively more important geopolitically.
Tina Su joined the class mid-way in the year, having had some Chinese language exposure at home, as her professor father and well-educated mother were both originally from China, where Tina was born, her birth name being Su Ting-ting.
I was captivated by Tina, first by her beauty, then by her manner, and finally by her talents, intellect, and world-view. We were both high school valedictorians, senior class presidents, yearbook editors, and children of Republicans. She was a highly accomplished pianist, I was a mediocre tuba player, but a spirited high school football defensive end.
We fell in love within weeks, the official date being Valentine Day, 1963. We were almost inseparable the rest of my junior and senior years, Tina’s first two years at Cornell.
If this were not an interracial romance, we would have gotten engaged when she graduated and we would have married not long after. Instead, both sets of parents were against our marrying, and we tearfully accepted their judgments.
3. After you were forced to end this promising relationship what happened next?
Tina was sent by her parents for her junior year abroad in England. I went to work for IBM and was then drafted. When Tina returned to Cornell, she dated only Chinese students, and she continued this while pursuing her MS degree at Harvard. I went from the army to Penn State in late 1966, and Tina graduated from Harvard and married a Ph.D. scientist from Taiwan in 1967; they moved to Chicago, where he had obtained a faculty position.
While at Penn State, I fell in love with a Caucasian woman who reminded me of Tina, married her in 1972 while I was studying at Harvard, and had eight fine years and a couple of bad months, when I discovered she was having an affair. We divorced. I was on the faculty of the Harvard School of Public Health and suddenly living beyond my means in Boston, as my ex-wife had been from a rich family. Something had to change.
4. Could you tell how you were reunited with Ting and what happened then?
When my marriage failed, I was broken-hearted, although it occurred to me that perhaps some day I could marry Tina. I wrote her a casual letter informing her of the break-up, and her reply was that she was sorry and that she was still married, with her son giving her great pleasure. I noted the limited endorsement of the marriage.
I dated several women, got engaged and then disengaged. Traveling through Chicago on school business, I called Tina and we chatted as though we had been apart only weeks, not nineteen years. I was elated. I told her that I still loved her and hoped that one day we could be together. At that point, I thought her husband would have to die before this could happen.
Tina and I wrote and called. I learned that her marriage had been hard on her and she had been considering divorce. She told me she had multiple sclerosis, with minimal symptoms at the time. I researched MS and learned there was a non-trivial chance that Tina would be wheelchair-bound, even quadriplegic and ventilator-dependent. I was both very sad and committed to rescuing her. Her plight seemed to justify asking her to divorce her authoritarian husband and to marry me, and she agreed with great enthusiasm.
A year later, we were joyously married, with parental approval even. Her younger son, age 2, came with her, and her elder son, age 9, stayed with his father.
We have had twenty-nine terrific years and are married to the max, committed to be together forever.
5. Now, for the difficult part, please tell us about Ting’s illness and how that has effected your life.
For the first ten years of our marriage, Tina’s symptoms were minimal, only showing up as a slow pace with small steps and a tendency to tire easily.
After a severe MS attack Tina became unable to walk. I had taken an early buy-out from IBM, knowing that such an attack could happen, and the IBM medical plan was guaranteed as part of the agreement. We had also purchased long-term home health care insurance, which after the attack ended up paying for 14 years of part-time home health aides.
We moved to the countryside after son Phil graduated from high school. We had four more years in which Tina could still use her arms and hands to have some independence.
Another severe MS attack nearly killed Tina and left her quadriplegic, on a ventilator, fed through a gastric tube. We were given the choice of hospice or home care, as her life expectancy was only a few months. Through IBM medical insurance, we have had almost unbroken 24-hour-per-day skilled nursing care in our home, for nine years rather than a few months!
6. What is the present state of Ting’s health and how is she being cared for?
Tina is more robust than nine years ago, but still quadriplegic, ventilator-dependent, fed through a gastric tube. She gets bed care and medications almost every hour of the waking day, and somewhat less over-night. She is alert and happy. Her nurses agree she is the most up-beat patient they have ever had. Her family doctor called the care she has gotten the best he has ever seen in a comparable situation.
7. Douglas, that is truly a touching story. I’m sure many of those reading or listening will want to buy the book and get all of the details. So, where can they get a copy of Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion?
The book is available in paperback and ebook formats through amazon.com and Outskirts Press, among others.
8. Now let’s discuss some of the social issues that your story raises. First, the expenses for your wife’s care are far more than one person or even a large family can possibly be expected to bear. Does society have an obligation or responsibility to help with the costs of such an unfortunate situation?
If she had not been paying into Medicare, then I would say the US would have no responsibility for her care. Given her payments, there is a contract between Tina and the government that should be honored. I chose to work for IBM partly because of its generous medical benefits, and Tina’s condition was a factor in my decision. We bought long-term care insurance while making the company aware of her MS. Companies should also carry out their contractual obligations.
9. I know you are a Libertarian. Doesn’t Libertarian philosophy say that we are all individuals and as such should be responsible for our own problems?
Yes, this is why we arranged to be so well insured. On the other hand, some government programs are part of contractual agreements between citizen and government, such as Medicare and Social Security. Medicaid is more like government-sponsored charity, with which I have less sympathy, despite the greater need of some of its recipients.
10. If society is responsible for helping with the burden in a case like that of you and your wife isn’t it reasonable that we have some sort of national health care plan such as Obamacare?
As you see, I reject that society has such a responsibility, beyond living up the promises it has made while taking our money. Obamacare actually threatens Tina and me, as many companies are using it as an excuse to move their retirees off the company medical plan and onto the public plan, which I can assure you will not pay the $1000 per day in nursing costs IBM currently supplies. If IBM moves us to Obamacare, our savings will be wiped out in a few years.
11. Douglas, your story shows the deep devotion that can only exist in a really great marriage. What is your feeling about the place of marriage in our society?
Marriage is key to the well being of many people, and it is especially important where children are involved.
12. To what degree should government be involved in marriage?
Marriage is governed by law, and law is needed where agreements break down, either through circumstances or misbehavior. The courts and the police are needed to enforce agreements.
13. With respect to the current issue of gay marriage, what is your position?
Gay marriage is a misnomer. Marriage has meant the union of men and women, not two men or two women.
Civil unions are fine with me, contractual agreements between consenting adults.
Homosexuals would prefer the term marriage to make their unions seem more acceptable. It is not clear how well the common law that has developed around traditional marriage will fit homosexual unions.
14. While we are on the subject of marriage and family what obligation do you believe society should have for the education of children and young adults?
Ideally, parents should be responsible, and I would supply education through private, not public schools. Getting there would be very difficult. School vouchers supported by taxation are an intermediate step. I do not believe society has a responsibility to educate children, though I think such education is worthwhile and in the absence of government support would be supported by charities and private arrangements.
15. Should people who do not have children be forced to pay for the education of other peoples children?
Ideally, no. However, getting to the situation where people are responsible only for their own children will be difficult.
16. If society is obligated to pay for the education of children how far does that obligation go? Is it through high school? College? Post graduate study?
Traditionally, in the US we have accepted that public education be supported through high school. The more we subsidize education, the more it will be wasted. Exceptions might be for legitimate governmental activities, such as defense, law, communicable disease, and pollution.
17. One last thing, could you once again remind people where they can find your book, Ting and I?
It can be ordered through amazon.com or at Barnes and Noble or through Outskirts Press. It shows the power of love and the value of life, even severely handicapped life.
Douglas, I really appreciate you taking time to participate in this interview. I sincerely hope people will feel as I do about your fascinating story and rush out to buy your book. I see it is available for just $0.99 in the e-book format from Amazon so it is really an incredible value.
Anyone who buys it before the live radio show will be better prepared to call in with questions so if you will be able to listen in please buy a copy in advance.