Tuesday, September 27, 2011
LISTENING BETWEEN THE LINES
Now 67, my wife, Tina Su Cooper, was paraplegic for ten years and for the last seven years quadriplegic, on a ventilator, fed through a gastric tube. She has endured this bravely, stoically, like the heroine she is. We fell in love in college, but our interracial marriage was opposed by both sets of parents, so we waited twenty years, both first marriages having failed, to be wed to each other. Our wedding rings read, “A dream come true.” So it is.
We married in the shadow of her impending disability from multiple sclerosis, but our days have been brightened by our mutual love. We are like a binary start system, warming and shining on each other.
Tina has always been quiet, reserved. She personifies the adage that “still waters run deep.” In my book, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion, I tell this anecdote:
When Tina talks, we must sometimes listen between the lines. She almost never insists and only rarely requests, not wanting to impose on us.
Recently, we were on the porch, looking at Lake Osiris. I was getting ready to brush her teeth. She said she likes to have that done after she’s been fed. That was scheduled half an hour later. I asked her if she would like to have her feeding sooner. Yes.
After the feeding through the gastric tube, we continued to chat a bit and enjoy the view. I forgot all about doing her teeth. She said, “My tummy feels full.”
“That’s good,” I replied. I thought awhile. “Does that mean that you would like me to do your teeth now?”
When I was done, I asked her whether reminding me that she had been fed was the way she wanted to communicate that I should give her tooth care. She dodged the question a couple of times, then admitted that I had gotten it right.
After twenty-six years of marriage, I am getting a bit better at listening between the lines.