Thursday, January 31, 2013

TING AND I, Megawatt Smile, Modesty


I check on Tina in the Tingdom a dozen times a day. If she’s awake, she greets me with what I call her megawatt smile. Bright and lovely. I kid her, telling her it may cause us to get a huge electricity bill. She smiles more. I kiss her on the cheek, loudly, long and gently. To prevent infecting her, we do not kiss on the lips, another loss.

If it’s the afternoon, I ask her whether she wants to get up “sooner” or “later,” and we—the staff and I—are guided by her wish.

We roll her onto a sling, then raise her with a hand-pumped Hoyer hydraulic lift. When we reach our lakeside kitchen, the first order of business is for me to brush her teeth, to keep that megawatt smile bright. We do it with a minimum of toothpaste and water, to reduce the risk of aspiration. Next will be chatting, watching TV, having me read to her. After an hour, it’s back to bed. Once a day, every day.


When I suggested calling this memoir The Ting and I, Tina demurred. “THE Ting” seemed grandiose to her. Ting and I would be okay. She never was showy. Even her Christmas lights needed to be subdued, not “gaudy, gaudy, gaudy,” as she characterized some neighbors’ dazzling displays. Tina Han Su, reserved.

Confident in her own self-worth, Tina is still modest. A compliment will be acknowledged, but with the equivalent of “You are too kind.” It is, she tells me, a Chinese thing. Praise a Chinese cook’s elegant and lavish dinner, and she may reply that she just “threw it together.” It is hard not to like.

Rather than keeping up with the Joneses or showing off, the tendency is not to embarrass the Joneses by making them look lesser in comparison. No conspicuous consumption, generally.

Of course, not all Chinese behave this way, but it is traditional.

One principle of Chinese interpersonal behavior is not to lose face nor cause the other person to do so. Objections or refusals are stated obliquely. It can be hard for an American to sort out. Concern for public appearance can be excessively other-directed and stultifying, but it helps produce polite behavior,

It was likely the second year of our “going steady” that I got the Debate Association to go along with entering Tina into the Fall, or Spring Weekend, Queen competition. She looked lovely in her Chinese high-collared dress, but she had arranged to downplay her lovely figure, modestly. She knew her figure was “not bad,” in her own words. She had understated, I knew. About fifty girls competed, and Tina was in the top 25 but did not make the second cut. Since the affair was run by the fraternities and sororities, Tina was a long shot. Being Asian may not have been a plus, either. What sting there might have been in not winning was gone when we noted that the clearly prettiest girl in the competition, a knockout of a blond, did not even make the top 25. We told that girl that we thought she should have won.

One time we were in my room in the house I shared with several other guys, on Wyckoff Avenue. My room was actually a converted porch, had a nice view, with windows on the ground floor. That evening, a housemate (with a date) came in the front door, and Tina and I climbed out the porch window. We could have said “Hi,” but sneaking out seemed even better. Modesty? High spirits? Both.

In her current situation, Tina has been a good sport about being undressed so many times daily by so many different nurses for her personal care. Excessive modesty in that regard could have been a major problem.

Modesty loses out to pride when Tina starts talking about her family’s education or my family’s. It’s a Chinese thing.

Monday, January 28, 2013

TING AND I, Songs, Selflessness, Courage


In the 1960s, the song I associated with us was:

Oh my love, oh my love

I cried for you so much,

Lonely nights without sleeping

while I longed for your touch.

Now your lips can erase

The heartache I’ve known.

Come with me to a world of our own.

We’ll build a world of our own

That no one else can share.

All our sorrows we’ll leave

far behind us there.

And I know you will find

There’ll be peace of mind,

When we live in a world of our own.

—Tom Springfield

—performed by The Seekers

It came true twenty years later.

When my voice changed around age 11, there was no need to go for an audition at the Church of St. John the Divine, which had been contemplated before the change. Now, I enjoy trying to sing, especially to Tina, a song of love:

You were meant for me.

And I was meant for you.

Nature patterned you

And when she was done,

You were all the sweet things

Rolled up in one.

You’re like a plaintive melody

That never, ever, never, ever let me free,

And I’m content

The angels must have sent you

And they meant you

Just for me.

—written by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown

—performed by Gene Kelly



Tina has consistently put the interests of others ahead of her own. Whenever I see my Automobile Association of America roadside assistance card in my wallet, I am reminded of this. Sometime during the Ledgewood Commons phase (1986– 93) of our marriage, she did someone a favor by editing a manuscript, for which that person insisted on paying her at least a nominal sum.

When Tina received that payment—her first “paycheck” during our marriage—she insisted on treating me to an AAA renewal, something I was considering discontinuing. I was touched and accepted with gratitude.


Tina’s courage is an inspiration. She has faced her decline bravely, doing what she could, when she could, without feeling sorry for herself or worrying over-much.

Nurse Maria Schmick writes:

From the first moment I met Tina, I was awed by her positive outlook on life. How could one human being face such a horrid disease and still show such gratitude and grace? Her hands may be bent, but her heart is big. And though her legs can’t carry her anymore, her mind reaches far beyond that limitation. MS may have claimed her body, but in terms of will, she has beaten MS to oblivion because it will never claim her spirit.

Leaving an unhappy marriage accompanied by her younger son, and leaving behind her elder son, to join a man she had been in love with twenty years before, took courage. “If you’ll jump, I’ll catch you,” I said. She jumped. I caught.

Frankly, it was gutsy on my part, too. Like countless others, I’d been too often let down by others. By my fortieth year on the planet, I was somewhere between skeptical and cynical about my fellow human beings. Yet this decision was simple for me: I knew if I did not take the opportunity to marry Tina, I would regret it, always wondering what might have been, sometimes fearing that she went through some terrible times without me.

Generally cautious people, we took a chance on each other, chose a “road less traveled by,” and won.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

THE SHIELD OF GOLD, Midnight Madness, Part 4

Nighttimes are frequently the occasions for calls about domestic violence, typically a man physically abusing his wife, his lover, sometimes a “significant other.”


One such call I won’t forget: when I came on the scene, a woman had her hands around the throat of a man who was lying on the ground, and she seemed to be choking him. When we told her to let go of his throat, we discovered that she had been putting pressure on his throat to try to stop the bleeding. The bleeding had come from a knife wound near his jugular inflicted by the same woman.


Apparently, after knifing him, she had second thoughts.


On another midnight shift, my partner and I were sitting in the patrol car, two cups of hot coffee sitting on the dashboard, our windshield wipers going, the exterior windows streaking --- the interior windows fogging from the combination of the hot coffee and a cool windshield. I was sitting behind the wheel, my partner next to me, with the windows slightly cracked open on both sides of the car. It was the middle of the night, no traffic, no people --- well, we thought there were no people.

We saw, on the corner, a man and a woman who was holding a baby. We could tell they were arguing about something; their voices echoed on the street. They were half on the sidewalk and half on the street. It appeared that he took the baby from her, and she walked briskly in our direction. I immediately said to my partner, “He just took the kid!”


As she approached the car, my partner rolled down his window further, just as she began to tell us something about her “baby’s father.” (Some people describe the men as the “baby’s father,” or “boyfriend,” or “husband,” I guess because they have so many different men in their lives.) Suddenly, I noticed the baby’s father raise his arm from his side, and the next thing I saw was a muzzle flash and a loud bang. He was aiming at her or at us, a little too close to call. Our coffees went flying, and I didn’t even realize at first how wet and hot it was.


We pulled away from the curbside parking spot and used a zigzag pattern to go toward him, stopping our vehicle in the middle of a busy street (White Plains Road), which was not busy at this hour.


The male was walking away from us, not listening to our commands to stop. We approached, and simultaneously the two of us grabbed him. I targeted the infant, my partner targeted the male’s right-hand, which we believed was still holding a gun. In fact, he was. Right after I gained control of the child in the pouring rain, I ran him back to the police cruiser, placed him on the rear floorboard, closed the door, and ran back to assist my partner, who was still struggling with this guy.


We sent out a call for help, a “10-13,” which means police officer needs assistance. When that call goes out, everybody comes in, and they keep coming until you issue a “no further” call, meaning no additional units are needed to the scene. We immediately heard distant sirens, though it seemed like forever before they came.


We finally regained control of the situation. We heard the last click on the handcuffs. What a great sound! You know you now have control; he is no longer a threat. I was soaking wet, physically and emotionally drained. The cavalry arrived, 15 to 20 cars at least. Like I said, they keep coming and coming. Finally, I realized I had to call it off and issued the “no further help needed” call.


As I was preparing the arrest paperwork, I looked to check the recorded times. Surprisingly, from the time of the first transmission of needing assistance to when the first car arrived at the location, it was only 1 min. Our activity seemed all in slow motion. Those midnight shifts, you never know what to expect from one quiet moment, just having a cup of coffee.


In the end, the baby’s mom refused to press charges against the man because she still loved him. The District Attorney’s Office didn’t pursue charges against him for attempted assault on a police officer, because of insufficient proof that the shot was meant for us. The gun charge was eventually pled down as well.


Whatever happened to the mandatory one-year prison term for illegal gun possession enacted by Mayor Koch? Well, at least this guy got a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of the minor. And yet, the man served no extra jail time: he was released for time served. That’s the system.

Friday, January 25, 2013

TING AND I, Cognitive Losses from Her MS


About half of those stricken with multiple sclerosis suffer significant losses in mental abilities. Memory, especially short-term memory, becomes less reliable. Reasoning ability may suffer, at least intermittently. The patient may be lucid one minute and not the next, perhaps repeating the same thing over and over again or echoing what is being said.

The movie Charly (based on the short story “Flowers for Algernon”) is a heartbreaking take on this kind of situation, as we see a brilliant patient lose his thinking skills, regain them with a chemical treatment, and then be doomed to lose them again, as the treatment is found to be only a temporary palliative.

In Tina’s case, significant cognitive deficits were noticeable near when Tina lost her ability to walk, the tenth year of our marriage, 1994. Two heavy blows. She felt deeply the loss of the use of her legs, but she did not notice the loss of mental acuity, which unawareness was a blessing in a way. I felt her cognitive loss even more acutely than her immobility, as the pleasure and utility of our conversations were diminished.

In her current condition, Tina—once an editor at the Encyclopedia Britannica—is sometimes quite aware and clear-headed; at other times her speech may become somewhat muddled and she appears to be confused. Her heart remains pure gold, however, priceless to all who know her.

We hope that future developments in MS treatment will allow restoration of her wonderful mind.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

TING AND I, Hospitalization, Will to Live

The children’s book author Dr. Seuss penned a story about Horton the elephant, who, having agreed to keep an egg warm on behalf of its absent mother, encounters many difficulties in fulfilling his pledge. Surmounting each of them, he proudly announces “an elephant’s faithful, one hundred per cent.” I’m happy to reassure Tina occasionally that I have the same philosophy and am not going to be outdone by Horton.

Horton Hospital, part of Orange Regional Medical Center (ORMC) in Middletown, NY, was the site of Tina’s 100-day battle against death from February to June of 2004. We have been ever so thankful to the nurses and doctors there who saved Tina’s life. No, it was not named after an elephant, but they succeeded in a big job.



Tina caught at least two different infections while in the critical care unit of the hospital. Elsewhere, and at a different time, I picked up bacterial and viral infections from an invasive procedure by an urologist. In Tucson, my mother suffered damage during a heart catheterization. The mother of a neighbor at Lake Osiris died of a systemic infection after her colon was punctured during a colonoscopy. There are simply still much too many medical errors occurring, leading to what are termed “iatrogenic,” doctor-caused, illnesses. Near the age of sixty, I had a virtual colonoscopy, a CT scan of that area, involving no endoscopes where the sun does not shine. I will do the same at 70. The loss of some detail in the exam is offset for me by the gain in safety and peace of mind.



I’ve learned of patients who have refused treatment and died. Keeping Tina from getting discouraged has been a priority, as has not misleading her with false hope. I summed up what I asked our nurses to do as “keep her safe, healthy, and content.”

Since her near-death experience, she has shown a continuing will to live.

My love for her and her love for me is part of what keeps her going. She loves Phil and Ted and some of the other members of our families. She loves, or nearly loves, some of our nurses and they reciprocate much of that affection. She enjoys what entertainment we can arrange for her TV screen.

When I hear discussion of “quality of life” as a characteristic, a “metric,” to be evaluated for access to medical care, I am uneasy. Before you are ill, you have one opinion of what you would want done for you. When ill, a different opinion is likely. When recovered, your evaluation will probably be different still. Even less well informed are the opinions of those who would judge your situation. Given the problem of perspective and given the shifting degrees of mental clarity, one must be very careful about the issue of “informed consent” for various proposed options.

In the hospital, I was asked several times to sign a DNR order for Tina. If her heart were to stop, a DNR order would limit the efforts taken to revive her. I refused to sign, believing she would come to want all efforts attempted, as I did. I have learned that sometimes the very existence of DNR orders suggest to the staff that little more need be done for the patient, who then becomes second-class, lower-priority. The institutions would deny this, of course, but the eagerness for having DNR orders suggests otherwise. At the least, they may serve to shield staff from liability in the case of premature death.

I have been told of a beautiful woman who suddenly became permanently bedridden. She told the staff to close the blinds on the window, to leave her alone, and she refused treatment until she died.

The will to live is necessary, even if not sufficient.

Monday, January 21, 2013

TING AND I, Tina's World


On the Internet site that Phil created for us in 2005 (, one can see Tina’s room, which I call “the Tingdom,” with its multitude of medical devices helpful in keeping her alive: the ventilator, the compressor and atomizer, the pulse oximeter, the hospital bed, the oxygen (O2) line coming from the oxygen concentrator in the nearby equipment room (formerly the dining room), where her wheelchair, a second ventilator, and boxes upon boxes of medical disposables are stored. On the nearer of our two porches is the gasoline-powered electric generator we use when power goes out.

The Tingdom, proper, is Tina’s room, where I say that the Empress Ting of the Ting dynasty reigns. I sometimes refer to her as “Your Highness” or “Your Magnificence” or “Tina Su-per Cooper,” but she finds “Tina Su-preme Cooper” a bit too much. She rests with one or more of her little subjects in her bed: Teddy bears with names like Sarah Bear Cooper (from nurse Mary Wilkinson’s daughter, Sarah), Tina Bear Cooper, Tyler Bear (he’s young and jade green, sharing Tina’s birth nation), and Ezra Cornell Bear.

By her TV sits a much smaller bear (Di-di, younger brother in Chinese), along with Teddy Bear Cooper and Philly Bear Cooper, and the longest-serving stuffed toy, Sally Wabbit, a Chapstick Aide (she keeps it under her tiny sweater). Sally Wabbit wears a nurse’s cap fashioned for her by nurse Dori Oskam. The stuffed animals are part of our continuing campaign to support Tina’s morale. They are gifts from friends, family and staff. Now that my mother is staying with us, Tina insisted she have one of the bears, giving to my mother Sarah Bear Cooper.

When I see Tina in the morning, I ask how she has been doing, tell her how magnificent I think she is, and inquire as to the overnight behavior of the bears. Her reports are uniformly favorable. Once, when Tina was being fed through the gastric tube, I explained that I had asked the bears once whether they, too, wanted something to eat and they had said, “No, thanks. We’re stuffed.” She laughed.

I like to joke with her. One day I felt for her toes through her socks and claimed that I counted eleven toes. Why hadn’t she told me before the wedding? Was this grounds for an annulment? She smiled her megawatt smile.

Tina loves to have her hair washed, especially by our Barbara George. Barbara puts her heart into all she does, even this, and it shows. We used to give in to Tina’s request to dye her hair, but the itchiness of her scalp for days afterward led us to stop. Her hair now has a salt-and-pepper look and has become wavy. Where the waves came from is a big question, apparently the side effect of one or more medication.

The weather forecast I give to Tina for the Tingdom is always the same: “temperature in the low 70s, no precipitation, and–at most –a gentle breeze.” This always wins a smile.

I used to call myself the Consort to the Empress Ting, a mere commoner, but she would not have it. She elevated me to Emperor, and I accepted. We issue an occasional edict, such as (on a Monday), “tomorrow shall be Tuesday, in the Tingdom; it’s been about a week since we had one, and the subjects desire one.” My Most Precious Ting plays along in the spirit of the jest.

Another metaphor I use with her is that of a binary star system, two suns revolving around a common center, warming and illuminating each other. My Ting is the light of my life, and she assures me I am the light of hers.

She is wonderfully easy to please and very appreciative. Nurse Kate Murphy gave us for Valentine’s Day a heart-shaped framed needlepoint for Tina’s wall: “Always kiss me goodnight.” I comply happily.

On the walls are her Cornell A.B. and Harvard M.A. diplomas, a beautiful watercolor done by her mother (three small birds chatting on a tree branch), another by her mother’s teacher, and a calendar (Golden Retrievers last year, China the year before). The wall she sees ahead of her from her bed is a robin’s-egg blue, a color she requested soon after we moved to this, our “year-round vacation home.” Repainting the whole room (it is an off-white) would have been awkward, and the fumes unhealthful, so Tina accepted this compromise.

When she leaves the Tingdom to go to our lakeside kitchen, she can see Lake Osiris, getting an even better view at it if the weather allows us to be on the adjacent porch. She spends an hour out of bed each afternoon.

This is Tina’s world, pretty much. I had bought, years before we were reunited, a reproduction of Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World,” showing a vaguely disabled-looking young woman in a field gazing longingly toward a house, presumably her home, a distance away. Not knowing Tina’s condition at the time, I nonetheless felt the painting symbolized her being separated from where she should be, with me.

I later learned that the “Christina” who was the inspiration (but not the model) for Wyeth’s painting was a woman whose legs had been paralyzed by polio. Wyeth had seen her crawling in a field. Eerie coincidence.

To add to the coincidence, Tina chose to be “Christina” Cooper the first decade of our marriage, signifying a complete break from what had been an unhappy first marriage. When we moved to Ramsey in 1993, she reverted to being called “Tina,” thinking to accommodate my brother Chris.

Tina has a window on the world, with a fine flat-screen TV given her by Gene and Christy, with associated DVD and CD and tape players, a digital TV subscription to over a hundred TV channels, including some fine music channels, and several hundred DVDs, tapes and CDs. Her favorites are comedies, travel, nature, documentaries, musicals, concerts, and inspirational presentations.


Excerpt from Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage and Devotion,
published 2011 by Outskirts Press, available from

Saturday, January 19, 2013

THE SHIELD OF GOLD, Midnight Madness, Part 3


Criminals prefer to operate at night, using the dark to cover their activities. The disadvantage for them is that there is typically not a crowd of people in which to hide. When perps start to move, we have a good chance of spotting them.


“Man with a gun.” Those are scary words. Sometimes the threat comes from someone on the roof of an apartment building. Criminals like to use the roofs in New York City because they can often go from one apartment house to another apartment building over the adjoining rooftops.


What goes up must come down, however. Often members of our unit would charge up the stairs and flush the criminal from the rooftop of that building so that he ran either down the fire escape to an alley or ran across to another roof, but eventually he had to come down to street level. Often, that’s just where I’d be.


Speaking of rooftops reminds me of a series of robberies that were being perpetrated by an Albanian gang at strip malls in our area. The criminals would cut a hole in the roof, climb down into the store, and steal whatever they could find.


We had reason to believe that we knew the target of the next heist. We understood how they were getting around burglar alarm systems. Similar to the ruse used by thieves in the jewel-snatch movie Topkapi, the burglars would cause the burglar alarms to go off erroneously.


Typically, the alarm was tripped, and officers would then respond to the alarm call. They would check out the perimeter, doors, windows, and gate. If all seemed secure, they would finalize the job to the dispatcher as “secured from ground level” [10-98], indicating that the alarm call was completed and they were available for the next assignment. After a few repetitions of this, the storeowners typically would turn off the burglar alarms so that they would not be charged a fee from the alarm company. Turning off the alarm allowed the burglars to continue without any fear that the police would be called to the location.


We saw this pattern of false alarms developing at one store in a strip mall, and decided to set up a surprise party for our interlopers. At closing time we made ourselves comfortable in the store, and, sure enough, between 3am to 4am we heard the sound of a drill on the roof. The thieves were drilling a small hole in the roof so that they could use a saw blade to cut themselves a large opening through which they entered the store.


Not only were we in the store, but we had back-up police units outside the store. When the burglars “dropped in” to collect some loot, they got an unpleasant surprise. We threw them a “perp party” and put them in cuffs.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

TING AND I, Near-Death and Quadriplegia

Excerpts from TING AND I: A MEMOIR...


In Franz Kafka’s story, “The Metamorphosis,” Gregor Samsa awakens one morning to find he has been transformed into a giant insect, a beetle. The story continues with the shocked response of his family and others who come to the home, his alienation from them all, and his rapid demise, partly out of consideration for his family.


When Tina awoke from her medically induced coma in early March of 2004, she was herself in a shocking situation: no longer able to move arms or hands, still unable to move legs or feet, given oxygen through a tube passing over her lips, past the larynx, into the windpipe. Gregor Samsa could speak, with difficulty, but Tina could not at all. I cannot even imagine how she must have felt.


Fortunately, nurse Terry Bush was there with her in the mornings, and I was there in the afternoons. We could help with her care, with assurance, communicating with a list of common words or by spelling out very short sentences, guessing the letters and getting her eye-blinks or smiles in response.


It was during this period that one of the attempts to get us to sign a DNR order was made. A couple of medical professionals (doctors? nurses?) had come into the room and were urging this on her. She was in no condition to disagree with the people she was so dependent on, but I had her power of attorney and was in fine condition to say, “No!”


When your life has been turned upside down, you are in poor shape to give “informed consent.” Health proxies, signed in the past and predicting what you would want done, do not necessarily reflect how you will feel at the time they come into play, nor how you would feel about the consequences, if you were alive later to reflect on them.


Tina chose to live, and we are all grateful for that.


In June of 2004, when we came home from the Critical Care Unit after the 100 days that nearly killed her, Tina was on a ventilator, quadriplegic, fed through a gastric tube. Not only was she totally dependent on us for her care, the list of infections and problems that had developed while hospitalized was daunting. She had been “colonized” by two strains of hospital-acquired bacteria and given only months to live. She was safer home or in a hospice than in the hospital, our doctors agreed. Being given the choice of home or the hospice meant there was a good chance she had only months to live. She took it in stride.

Elaine Tashiro Gerbert, Tina’s close friend from college days, visited us while we were in Ramsey, when Tina still had the use of her left arm and hand. The next visit, after the near-fatal MS exacerbation and the onset of quadriplegia, is described in “Tributes” and excerpted here:

The next time I saw her, she was living in Walden and had suffered greatly. She was wearing sunglasses because the light hurt her eyes. She tilted her head and reassured me, “It’s Tina. I’m still here. I’m still the same person you knew forty-four years ago.“ One of the first things she did was to make sure I had eaten lunch. And then she wanted me to walk around the lake with Doug, to be sure to enjoy the lake.
This was in the fall of 2006, after my mother died in April. I remember a telephone conversation I had with Tina early that year, when my mother’s cancer returned and she was getting progressively worse. Tina told me to pray. To pray, pray, pray. She knew what she was talking about. After Pierre
[Elaine’s husband] died in May 2010, I visited Tina and Doug. Because of her immense suffering, which she bore so stoically, Tina knew what loss and grief felt like, and she consoled me many times over the phone.
I don’t know from what depths Tina drew the strength to be as compassionate and courageous through all the years—over 6,000 days– in the face of such extreme trials. When I think of her life, I have to conclude that in spite of her many losses, she has been loved deeply and she has loved deeply. She has retained her belief that life is good, and she has lived profoundly and well.

As I write this book, in mid-2011, she is in better general health than when she came home, her periods of mental clarity are interspersed with episodes of verbal repetition or mental confusion. Her mood is usually good, and she is not in pain. She relates warmly to staff, family, friends, and she enjoys TV, videos, music, news, and is loving toward and beloved of many. Several of the contributions to the Tributes section expand on this.

Monday, January 14, 2013

TING AND I, Lake Osiris, 2000-now

In looking for a home to move to in retirement, we had some requirements. The place needed to be:

—within twenty miles, better ten, of the home of my mother and sister
—scenic, preferably near a body of water
—large, with numerous bedrooms, not necessarily fancy

We succeeded on all counts, our current home:

— is five miles from my mother and sister;
—overlooks Lake Osiris, a 25-acre scenic body of water;
—has six bedrooms, two bathrooms, two half-baths, two kitchens, a living room, and a dining room, though no basement or attic.

The house was actually two houses, the second built later as an attachment to the first, conjoined, if you will (“Siamese,” if you are politically incorrect).

We had sought a large house to be able to have live-in help, if needed, and to be able to offer a home to my mother and sister, should that be desired.

The rooms, and their uses, were as follows:

—one bedroom became Tina’s;
—the dining room eventually stored equipment, supplies, etc.;
—the larger of the two kitchens became the nurses’ kitchen and headquarters;
—one bedroom became my office;
—one bedroom, near the lake and next to the second kitchen, was for visitors;
—one bedroom became Phil’s;
—one bedroom was used for aides, nurses, or visitors, as needed;
—the two large bedrooms upstairs became an attic and my bedroom, adjacent to a small half-bathroom between them; and
—a living room, with couches and a TV set. It is hardly ever used.

My mother was 83 at that time, living with my sister, and we then thought (accurately, as it turned out) that one or both would live with us eventually. Mom did come to our house ten years later, in mid-November 2010, at 93, after a fall. Robert Frost wrote that home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. I would say: Home is also where, when you need to go there, they want to take you in. Better still: it is where, when you want to go there, they want to take you in.

In 2000, when we moved to Lake Osiris, Walden, Tina was paraplegic, confined to bed or to her wheelchair, and we traveled using a van that accommodated the wheelchair. She was up for an hour or so at each mealtime. She could use her left arm and hand to feed herself, to control the TV remote control, to answer the phone or ring for help and to write, though poorly. It was a pleasant, relatively stress-free time.

My mother wrote about Tina in June 2001, as part of a writing assignment in a course she was taking. Tina’s condition and my mother’s love for her are evident:

You would not expect a person in my daughter-in-law’s situation to be notable for her sense of humor. She has multiple sclerosis, and for the last five years, she has been unable to walk or use her right arm and hand. She spends her days now propped up in bed or in a wheelchair. What little strength she has in her left hand is not enough to operate the chair.
There are times, of course, when she expresses her frustration, but she is usually cheerful, and, of all the people I have ever known, she has the quickest laugh. Start to tell Tina a joke, and she begins to laugh immediately.
She has lost so much. I remember her running after me as we hustled through Times Square on a quest for tickets to a play. When she visited us in Tucson, she swam fifty laps at a time in our pool. An accomplished pianist, she struck the chords of a Tchaikovsky concerto with ease. Before her marriage to my son, her master’s degree from Harvard and a talent for writing had earned her a job with the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Now my son hoists her from bed with a Hoyer lift, a device that scoops her into a canvas seat and deposits her in her wheelchair. Occasionally, someone pushes the chair up to her piano, and, with her left hand, Tina picks out a melody. No chords.
In her bed she has a computer against her drawn-up knees on which she spells out letters to her friends and family. She talks on the phone to her former schoolmates. She talks to Amy, the sky-blue parakeet in a cage next to her bed, and to Brandy, her Golden Retriever, who nuzzles her hand with a cold nose.
Tina was born in China and brought to the United States when she was two years old. Although she is truly an American girl, her upbringing and her looks reveal her ethnic roots. Her speech, while completely idiomatic, is noticeably formal in structure. In appearance she is recognizably Chinese. Her black hair hangs straight from a center part, curving up just below her ears. Her dark eyes are almond-shaped. A faint pink colors the rich ivory skin over her wide cheekbones. Small, even white teeth show in her ready smile.
Seated in her kitchen, she can look out through a glass door at a lake and watch as squadrons of Canadian geese ripple its surface. She converses with guests, moving her good hand elegantly to emphasize her words.
Sometimes she speaks too softly for me to hear. The fault is with my hearing; she has always had a low voice. In marrying my son, she has joined a family that is large and often boisterous. This has never bothered Tina, and she has learned to make herself heard in even the largest family groups.
But mostly what she does is laugh, head back, tears streaming from half-closed eyes, as every quip transports her.
The perfect audience!

That was Tina in 2001. We had moved to Lake Osiris the year before.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

THE SHIELD OF GOLD, Midnight Madness, part 2

I am reminded of a similar occurrence that involved psychology, in this case the psychological power of the badge.


My partner and I responded to a domestic dispute that we had been to time and time again: same call, same location, same players and the same reasons. Again, the dispute was over something trivial, and neither party clearly remembered what they had been arguing about. We tried to remedy the situation, but we could see we were not getting anywhere as usual.


The husband said that they simply could not get along --- ever since they got married.


The wife agreed, “I wish we never got married. After we got married, all we do is fight.”


Neither of them wanted to move out or separate. Each claimed to still love the other.


I decided to give some psychology or social science a try. I told both of them to stand next to each other, facing me. I then instructed each of them to place a hand on my badge. With one hand on top of the other, atop my badge, while looking at each other, they were told by me, “By the power invested in me by the State of New York, I hereby divorce you.”


We all shook hands. They both thanked us. We never got another domestic call from that home, a tribute to the psychological power of the badge.


Civilians are not the only ones who get to be a little daffy.

One night on the midnight shift, my partner and I came into the precinct lunchroom for our meal break at 3 am. As we usually do, we removed our gun belts in attempt to get somewhat comfortable. A call of “Shots fired!” came in over the radio from another unit in our precinct. Because we knew that the call had come from a patrol car, we were sure that it was legitimate, and we wanted to be able to assist our comrades if they needed us. We got to the scene in record time, jumped out of our car, and reached for our side-arms. Not there. Neither of us had remembered to bring his gun belt and weapon.


Fortunately. those of us on the police force typically have a second gun, often worn at the ankle, sometimes worn in a shoulder holster. We learn in the Police Academy that the fastest reload of a weapon is not to try to put bullets in the weapon you’re using, but to pull out your backup gun.


Early in my career my weapon of choice was a Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver with a 4-inch long barrel, a reliable and accurate handgun. My backup weapon, usually worn in an ankle holster, was a Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver with a 2 inch barrel. Revolvers have the advantage that they are almost foolproof. They do not need to be meticulously cleaned to prevent jamming, the way a semi-automatic pistol must.


Although highly reliable, the revolver does have one shortcoming: if one grabs the gun by the barrel so that it cannot rotate to put a new bullet into the firing chamber, the revolver will not fire. That’s not a shortcoming, but a feature, if the revolver is pointed at me, and I have prevented it from being fired by grabbing the barrel.


Later in my career, I traded in my revolver for a Glock semi-automatic pistol. The Glock was mostly plastic, except of course for having a metal barrel, and was much lighter than the all-metal semi-automatics or revolvers that were my other options. Revolvers typically have five or six bullets in their barrels, but the modern semi-automatics typically had 15-shot magazines plus one bullet in the chamber, giving you a total of 16 shots before you had to reload.


Reloading is a scary procedure. For a brief period, you are effectively without a weapon. Studies done by police departments around the nation have shown that most of the time when a police officer was shot he was looking down at something, almost always looking to see where to put the bullets while reloading. While you can learn to reload the gun simply by feel or by looking down and then looking up while loading only one bullet at a time, the best solution is to have a backup gun.


From THE SHIELD OF GOLD: A Candid Memoir by a Former NYPD Detective, by Lenny Golino and Douglas Winslow Cooper, published by Outskirts Press, fall 2012, available from OP and from in paperback or ebook.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

TING AND I, Son Phil


High school basketball games were fun. Phil got some playing time as a freshman on the junior varsity team and won a starting role there as a sophomore. He had some playing time as a junior on the varsity and was a starter as a senior, probably the third-best player on their league’s championship team, with fine speed, good passing, dribbling, shooting—and he often grabbed the rebounds, even against taller players. He was one of the few on his high school team who could easily dunk the ball. I see in my mind’s eye his catching a rebound on its way out of bounds, throwing it, while himself in mid-air, down-court to teammate Steve Kupfer, before sailing out of bounds himself, with Steve scoring at the far end. Hustle, agility, situational awareness.

Phil’s coach thought he could get an athletic scholarship for basketball at a small college (Division III) if he wanted, but Phil’s tuition was going to be covered by his professor father’s interschool exchange, just as Ted’s had been, and we could supply much of the living expenses, largely with money we had set aside for each boy from the buy-out of Tina’s share of the Chicago condo. No need to go the athletic scholarship route.

Phil balanced sports, academics, and social life well. Popular, even class president his senior year, a fine student, athletic and charming, Phil glided through Ramsey’s high school.




Well before his 2000 graduation, Phil and I discussed his plans for college. He had no particular field of interest, so I suggested that a business degree might give him latitude in future choices, with better job opportunities than a liberal arts major would. He agreed.

He applied to several colleges, among them Boston College. We liked that it had a good reputation and had retained some of the Jesuit founders’ emphasis on moral behavior. Ten percent of their new admissions were class presidents, as was Phil, whose grades were near the top ten percent of his high school class. The school had an active sports program, intramurals to participate in, intercollegiate teams to cheer. BC it was.


Boston College proved to be a very good choice. Phil graduated in 2004, with some solid training in obtaining his bachelor’s degree as a business major. Strong friendships were formed. His grades were good. Fun was had.

The few students we met from Boston College were kids we liked and that we had no reluctance for Phil to be with. We liked his steady girlfriend, Maggie. He was clearly learning something in his coursework. He finished toward the top quarter of the graduating class. The campus atmosphere was traditional and fun, and he and we enthusiastically rooted for the football and basketball teams. His senior year he shared half of a house with ten of his BC buddies, and they have remained friends.


One summer during college, Phil spent two months in the Dominican Republic, volunteering in the Amigos program, living with a teacher’s family in a tiny town, eventually helping to upgrade their athletic facilities. We missed him. It was good experience: nice relationships with the host family and friends, helped his Spanish, though his stay did not much improve the lives of the people there. Such is the nature of much volunteer work.


The summer between his junior and senior years at BC, Phil worked in a marketing internship for the May Corporation (then owner of the Filene’s department store chain). He did so well that they committed to hire him when he graduated from BC. He worked in the Boston area, then moved to New York when Macy’s and May merged. Closer to us meant more convenient visits.


After a couple of years with Macy’s, Phil was ready to pursue an MBA. He did well on the MCAT exam and applied to several schools, including the University of Chicago. U of C’s business school, Booth School of Business, admitted him for fall 2008. He did well there, got good grades. He lived in the Hyde Park condo of his father and stepmother, who were there half the year. He made good friends, with one of whom, John, he later shared a New York City apartment, when they both got jobs in the New York metropolitan area. The girl he started dating midway in his first year, Jessie, we liked a lot. I thought she was the kind of girl I would have picked for him or for myself: smart, pretty, polite, cooperative, congenial, and of Asian ancestry. After two years of going together, they broke up, however.

Phil interned with American Express between his two years in the MBA program. AmEx and he seemed like a good match, so he accepted their offer that fall to come to work for them after graduation.

What Phil sets out to do, Phil gets done.

Monday, January 7, 2013

TING AND I, 1994: Cancer, MS, Paraplegia


Tina found the lump in her breast while showering. It was pea-size, perhaps smaller. The time was the spring of 1994, a year after we moved from Millwood to Ramsey and only months after she had started the immune-suppressive beta interferon injections in the hope of lessening the multiple sclerosis exacerbations that were rapidly diminishing her physical abilities.

The biopsy confirmed our fears. The usual choices presented themselves: remove the lump, remove the breast, treat with radiation or chemotherapy. With little hesitation, she and I decided that a mastectomy, removal of the breast, was the treatment we wanted, the one thought most likely to prevent recurrence or spread. Weeks later, this was done, and it was followed by an extended period of relatively mild chemotherapy.

The incident illustrated many of Tina’s strengths:

—She was alert to her health and did not deny what she found.

—She sought professional help immediately

—She identified and weighed the options, in discussions with me.

—Having chosen, she moved quickly to carry out what reason required.

—She did not bemoan her fate.

—For many years after, she faithfully underwent somewhat uncomfortable mammographies.

She was, as always, a brave soldier.


The mastectomy and subsequent treatment had weakened Tina somewhat. The combination of that and her MS was decisive. She tried pitifully hard to keep walking by using a walker, but she became bedridden by the end of 1994.

We used a wheelchair and transferred Tina to and from her bed with a sliding board. We installed a ramp from the garage. We put handrails in the shower. It seemed as though each modification we made to our home or our lifestyle was rapidly outrun by the decline in her abilities.

Late that year, 1994, we hired our first home health aide, from a foreign-worker placement agency. Kasia had won some green-card lottery in the Ukraine, had some health aide experience there, and spoke absolutely no English, only Ukrainian and Polish. Using pantomime and a Polish-English dictionary, we made ourselves understood. Sweet woman, hard worker. She lived and worked with us for over a year, benefiting from and appreciating the English lessons that Tina gave her.

Around this time, when Tina was newly paraplegic, we were introduced to a couple from a church we had visited from time to time. Namie was an attractive and articulate Japanese American, wheelchair-bound with Parkinson’s, and Doug was a handsome, charming and intelligent Ph.D. chemist. We were in our fifties, and they were about ten years younger. We had them over to have lunch, and they were able to come because we had a convenient ramp into the porch where we would be entertaining them.

Parkinsonism is a progressive neurological disorder affecting primarily the motor nerves. The jerky motions characteristic of the ailment can be controlled with medication, but this often leads to lethargy. There is little loss of thinking ability, if any at all. Namie was very active during lunch, and I found myself –to my shame –wondering whether she was going to knock our nice China cup and saucer off the table. Her husband was uneasy about that, too, unfortunately. The conversation flowed readily, however, as we had lots in common. We parted on good terms, and Tina and I expected to get invited by them to get together again. This never happened. Instead, we learned a few months later that Doug had taken off, putting her in some faith-based nursing home. This did not raise churchgoing to a higher priority for us.

Recently, I checked the Internet to see where Namie was. I found her picture in a publication put out by a charitable nursing home in upstate New York. She had continued her hobby of painting (!), and some of her pictures were in the photograph. I have read that a large fraction of marriages (perhaps 85 percent) with a disabled spouse do break up, especially if it is the wife who is disabled. Shameful.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

THE SHIELD OF GOLD, Ch. 11, Midnight Madness, Pt. 1, Little Man

During my police career, I served many midnight to 8am shifts. Something about those hours makes people a little daffy at times. What can you expect when lunchtime is 3am in the morning?


About the same time almost every night, we were receiving a call about a prowler or suspicious activity or some such, a call that had come from the same apartment number in the same building. And when we went there, we would be told in detail by a little old lady about sounds of suspicious activity and the sighting of a scurrying little man. Each night we went, because we felt we should. Each night she would recount a somewhat similar story: A little man was antagonizing our little old lady.


At first, we tried to reassure her that the little man was only in her imagination. That was wholly unsuccessful. I enjoyed the psychology classes that I took at the police academy, and it occurred to me that perhaps I could use something I learned there.


The next time the call came in, my partner and I went to the same house, the same apartment, the same lady, with her same story. But this time, instead of trying to convince her that there was no little man there harassing her, I told her that I was going to put him in handcuffs and take him into custody.


I walked behind the sofa and, while my partner partially blocked her view. I made some jangling noises with the handcuffs, along with clicking sounds, as though I was putting a perpetrator in cuffs. I announced to my partner and to the potential victim that I indeed had captured the trouble-maker and was going to take him to the police station. My partner congratulated me, and while he again somewhat blocked the lady’s view of what I was doing, I stooped down low and walked out of the room and out of her apartment with the handcuffs dangling, the little man supposedly in custody. That was the last such call we ever got.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

TING AND I, Step-fathering

From Ting and I: A Memoir...


Moving from Millwood and Ledgewood Commons was a real loss for Phil, as he had good friends nearby and loved to play basketball on the condo’s court, swim in the pool, sled down the hill. He would be fifty miles from this. I told him I would take the hour’s drive with him any weekend he wanted to visit his friends and that I would get a basketball hoop built in our own backyard. We did make a few visits, may have had some friends back as guests, and the basketball set-up was among the first items completed at our Ramsey, NJ, home. With Tina’s ability to walk declining precipitously, Phil understood why we had to leave Millwood and didn’t complain about it.



For Phil it was a new town and a new school, Smith Middle School, a half-mile away, a good bike-riding distance, rather safe. Phil made friends easily, did well. He was active in soccer and basketball and well liked.

Phil’s involvement in sports gave us many pleasant memories. Soccer in the fall found me helping to coach, with Tina sitting in the stands with other soccer moms (and soccer dads). Not much scoring, but a lot of running around. After a while, you get to recognize near-scoring opportunities, which are dramatic in the low-scoring games.

He was not chosen for the sixth-grade basketball team, however, partly because he was unknown and still short. I told him he would eventually excel, if he chose to, and that by his senior year he could be a starter. I suggested that he work hard on jumping high, because that would offset any height deficit he might have. Players like Calvin Murphy had been successful basketball pros, even though less than 6 feet tall, because of their jumping ability. I also told Phil that it was better to excel in one sport than not excel in several and that I did not want him playing football, as I knew too well how easily one could get injured. He took all this to heart. He worked on his jumping. He lifted weights to get strong. He grew to be a strong, though light, 6’3” and was effectively even taller than that because of his jumping ability.