Thursday, October 27, 2011


In social situations, in dating, in marriage, in housing, do opposites attract and later merge? What helps “blended” couples and families actually blend, and “diverse” communities become united, the differences among the individuals dissolving rather remaining intact?

Long ago, while studying physics, I learned that time, temperature and turbulence were three factors that influenced the rate of mixing and then dissolving of a powder in a liquid. It has occurred to me lately that these elements have similar implications in matters small and large, from my coffee cup to our society.

As I dissolved my instant breakfast powder in hot milk, I stirred vigorously and waited, somewhat patiently, for the powder to mix and dissolve and spread uniformly throughout the liquid. I noted that the mixing and dissolving went best when the powder was added slowly, steadily, rather than rapidly or in clumps. Often, you do not want to start with all of the powder in a pile at the bottom. That works with instant coffee, but not with my brand of instant breakfast, which sticks together in an impenetrable lump. Some materials just like to stick together.

Where am I going with this? To America as a “melting pot,” where new ethnic and religious groups are added to the mix, spreading more or less uniformly throughout the country, over time. An alternative vision is America as a stew, with pieces that never blend in, never spread uniformly.

Ethnic mixing or segregation is of particular interest to me, the loving and beloved husband of a woman of Chinese ancestry, Tina Su Cooper. I have told our story in Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion. Tina’s highly educated parents came from China to America right after World War II, and her father, Dr. G.J. Su, had a long and distinguished career as a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Rochester. Her mother, S.T.C. Su, had a chemistry degree, but she applied her talents to home-making, child-rearing, and the painting of lovely watercolors, some of which adorn our walls.

Tina’s elder sister is an orthodontist; her younger brother is a rheumatologist. As a family, they were “outside and above” most of their neighbors in Rochester, NY, and were among only a handful of Chinese families near that city during Tina’s childhood in the 1940‘s and 1950‘s. Any racial slights could be dismissed by the Sus as the bad behavior of lower-class individuals, thus less hurtful. Their situation was a far different starting point from those Chinese who arrived here as laborers, whose children stereotypically ran Chinese laundries and restaurants, often sending their children to medical, law, and engineering schools.

Time is needed for successful mixing. The second and third generations have different resources and face different conditions. Education, industry, thrift, and investment produce higher standards of living. Society learns to accept, often to respect, the newcomers. Patience is helpful, but so is impatience. “Time heals all wounds.” This adage overstates, but healing does occur. In 1963 Tina Han Su and Douglas Winslow Cooper met in the Cornell University language course Chinese 102 and fell in love. In 1984, we married. Some of that delay was due to ethnocentrism. Parental pressure and persuasion kept us apart, although our families eventually approved the match, twenty years later. Tina’s elder sister’s first marriage was, like Tina’s, to a man of Chinese ancestry. Her second marriage, like Tina’s, is to a Caucasian. Dr. and Mrs. Su’s third child and only son married a Caucasian, a marriage that took years to win his parents’ acceptance. I have read that now in America roughly half of second-generation and later-generation Asians marry Caucasians.

How do “turbulence” and “temperature” play roles in the mixing– dispersing– dissolving model of the interactions among diverse individuals and groups?

Turbulence is random motion on a relatively large scale, having some similarity to human migrations, especially those with a variety of speeds and directions. If we all head west, that is just a flow, but if we go hither and yon, sometimes even returning to where we started, that is more like a turbulent, eddying motion. It gets relatively large numbers of us spread throughout the country, often in pockets, such as “Chinatowns,” a term in disuse now. Within those pockets, life is much like it was in “the old country,” even if those groups are close to pockets of other people much unlike themselves.

The transition from large-scale mixing to smaller-scale was humorously described in the following poem by the meteorological scientist L.F. Richardson:

“Big whorls have little whorls,

Which feed on their velocity;

And little whorls have lesser whorls

And so on to viscosity

(In the molecular sense).”

Viscosity is a resistance to motion on the molecular scale. Temperature is a measure of the random motion of the molecules. For people, this fine, “molecular,” scale is that of interpersonal relations and, notably, of marriage, the ultimate level of mixing or not mixing.

Centuries ago, most people lived in their home towns all their lives, meeting and marrying people from that town or from nearby areas, people not so different from themselves, though still as different as women and men are from each other.

Now, our children often move far away to take jobs for which they have trained that are not available nearby, meeting others also from distant places, marrying them, and creating new unions of types of people rarely paired in prior eras. The engaging reporter who came to interview Tina and me about our memoir was the product of a marriage between a woman from Turkey and a man from America, who met, as did Tina and I, decades ago on a college campus. Our interviewer wore a lovely ethnic (likely Turkish) dress to the interview and spoke impeccable English. She was obviously quite intelligent. In biology, the mixing of somewhat dissimilar stock can produce “hybrid vigor,” arguably true for humans, as well.

I think economic activity resembles “temperature.” We say the economy is “warming up” or “cooling down,” displaying more or less economic activity. Prosperity produces jobs that lure us from where we are to where they are. Prosperity allows us to move to a nicer neighborhood because we can afford to do so, getting a better house or a better school system for our children, hopefully getting both. This movement produces small-sale mixing, where we find ourselves next door, or in adjacent cubicles at work, to people from widely different origins from our own, though often of a similar economic class. This kind of person-to-person closeness is, I believe, a beneficial result of a drive toward greater “diversity.” A stagnant economy brings much of this to a halt.

Back to my instant breakfast, I note that pouring it in very rapidly can lead to poor dispersal. Occasionally, clumps come out of the package that are hard to get to dissolve. Similarly, there may be rates of influx of newcomers that are too high.

Certain groups, such as some religious groups like the Amish or the Jewish Hassidim, do not want to disaggregate. Their tight bonds with each other have value, too. We cannot be sure that they would be better off if they were more dispersed throughout our country. “Each to his own taste,” within limits, limits set by law and custom.

What kind of society is best? Continuing my cooking analogy, a simple homogeneous society is like a cup of coffee, uniform, nice. Add cream and sugar, mix well, and some will find this even better. If the sugar does not disperse and dissolve, this is not so good. Tasty soups run the gamut of beef broth to cream of tomato to purees to chicken noodle to stew, each with a different degree of variety, of diversity. On different days, I like different soups.

Over time, especially during prosperous times, when people are free to move and meet, the melting pot metaphor replaces the salad bowl simile. As individuals and as a country we gain from the inter-mingling strengths of our different cultures, being mixed and blended. melted and dissolved, achieving the motto on the Great Seal of the United States: e pluribus Unum --- out of many, one.

Monday, October 24, 2011


From Ting and I: a Memoir

“Beauty is skin deep,” but “ugly goes all the way to the bone.” These are unkind generalizations, but they do reflect truth, especially about the appraisal of women.

If you are a woman, some think you can’t be too rich, too thin, or too beautiful. From early childhood, the better-looking are better treated. They may be assumed to have virtues that they in fact lack or just be seen as fortunate, lucky. Perhaps beauty suggests genetic superiority. It is nice to be around beautiful things, including beautiful people. They sense it, too. It may well improve their outlook on life, bringing optimism and thus greater success and enjoyment. They like to gather together, these Beautiful People.

A drawback is the sense of entitlement being beautiful may engender. No need to be quite as nice, considerate, warm as the less attractive. A woman may feel that she is not loved for herself but for her looks, either rebelling against that or obsessively worrying about the effects of aging.

Maintenance can be a problem, too.
Tina has been beautiful but unspoiled by it.
My mother was a particularly pretty young woman, so much so that she was a dress and furs model “on Seventh Avenue,” the New York garment center of old. She was also brilliant, the smartest person in the room, almost always. She wanted a large family and had five children. One Mother’s Day I gave her a card we both found particularly apt: a beautiful Golden Retriever mother is leading five puppies of hers on leashes she is holding in her mouth. The card reads. “Always behind us ... and always a step ahead.”

I guess some of this holds true for good-looking men. Of average looks myself, I noticed one day when out walking with one of my brothers that women’s heads were turning to follow us as we walked by. I’d never experienced that. He’s happily married to a very pretty and smart woman, with two good-looking and smart children. The handsome shall be choosers, too. We wish them well.

Tina says I’m handsome. I thank her for the compliment, then reply with the adage “Handsome is as handsome does.” After all, I don’t want to be loved just for my dashing good looks.

We know nature can be beautiful, as can music, art, even mathematics. I worked on an interesting problem with a mathematician colleague at IBM and solved it in a brute-force, computer-intensive way. I was pleased to have obtained an answer, but it fell short in his eyes, as it lacked the elegance of a correct and simple summarizing equation. The engineer in me was satisfied. The mathematician in him was not.

My handsomest technical paper was “Estimating an Instrument’s Counting Efficiency by Repeated Counts on One Sample,” an elegant application of the Poisson distribution. Yes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Sunday, October 23, 2011


From Ting and I: A Memoir

Robert F. Starbuck died a hero in Vietnam on February 4, 1967. Only 25, he was a sergeant of an elite RECON Marine detachment holding a hill against overwhelming odds. He was awarded the Silver Star, one of our armed forces’ highest decorations for bravery.

Bob and I were football teammates, high school classmates, and friends. He was very likable and decent. His death must have been shattering to his family. When I learned, much later than 1967, of his death, I pondered what I could do in his memory. Moving back to Walden, I found that our high school, Valley Central, held an annual awards ceremony for members of the athletic teams. I established the Robert F. Starbuck Captain’s Award in his honor, going each year to the captain of the football team, in recognition of Bob’s leadership, courage, strength, and service to our country.

Recently, a memorial ceremony was held near us in Walden, NY, in honor of our local servicemen who died. There is never enough we can do to thank such people.

The story of Bob’s last battle is one of those in the book, Honor the Warrior: the United States Marine Corps in Vietnam, by William L. Myers, published in 2000. Mr. Myers dedicates his book to the nearly 15,000 members of the U.S. Marine Corps who died in Viet Nam. His dedication includes this excerpt from a poem by Laurence Binyon:

But they shall not grow old

As we who are left grow old.

Age will not weary them nor the years condemn,

But at the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

We do remember.




Saturday, October 22, 2011


                                                           FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

To assist families undertaking quadriplegic care at home, Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., husband of a quadriplegic multiple sclerosis patient, has established the Internet site, which will contain helpful information gleaned from his seven years of quadriplegic care for his wife, Tina Su Cooper.

The site begins as follows:

“Welcome to our site concerning quadriplegic care at home.Issues we will be discussing include: medical home care, private home care, special issues related to disabled spouses, being successful patient advocates, and --- in many cases --- our reflections concerning multiple sclerosis diagnosis and multiple sclerosis treatment.

“At the outset, note that this is not intended to be medical advice.

"I am a retired Ph.D. physicist, not an M.D. physician. I will be telling you what has and has not worked for my wife, Tina Su Cooper, who was paraplegic from 1994-2004 and quadriplegic, ventilator-dependent, fed and medicated through a gastric tube, from 2004 to the present. She has received successful quadriplegic care in our home with round-the-clock nursing paid for by my IBM retiree medical benefits for the past seven years.

“Quadriplegic care has medical, psychological, logistical, and financial implications.
"Pressure sores [bed sores] and respiratory and system infections, depression, lack of personnel or supplies or equipment, poverty or bankruptcy … all threaten the patient. All have serious consequences for the caregivers. All are topics appropriate to this site.”


For more information contact Dr. Cooper at (845) 778-4204 or


From Ting and I: A Memoir

Greed has justifiably fallen into some disrepute. Envy, on the other hand, seems to be in ascendance.

Greed can be an incentive, impelling you to produce more or exchange more in order to get more, and thus greed can have its socially beneficial aspects, however unattractive a personality trait. When it escalates to theft, we have a criminal problem.

Envy seems likely only to make you want to take away from another what you wish you had for yourself. Not productive. Not nice at all. When it escalates to theft, we have a criminal problem.

The envious assume they know the truth about the lives of those they envy. Often, they are quite mistaken. The poet Edwin Arlington Robinson described the fortunate Richard Cory, but noted

… we thought that he was everything

To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked and waited for the light,

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;

And Richard Corey, one calm summer night,

Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Friday, October 21, 2011

WOW! - Based on Ting and I: A Memoir

Based on Ting and I

“Wow!” exclaimed my wife, Tina Su Cooper, from her wheelchair, at first sight of the framed wall-mounted portrait I gave her for our twenty-seventh wedding anniversary. Tina is quadriplegic, attached to a ventilator. She is our heroine. A local artist, Mike Jaroszko, painted the portrait from a photograph taken of Tina forty-four years earlier. That portrait also graces the cover of our book about our five-decades-long love, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion, my tribute to her.

Our love story began in January 1963, forty-eight years ago, at Cornell University’s introductory Chinese language class. A physics major, a junior, I took the Chinese course out of curiosity and to satisfy the University’s foreign language requirements. Tina Su was “pre-med,” a freshman, entering the Chinese course in its second semester because she had already learned some Chinese at home.

Tina’s parents, Professor and Mrs. G.J. Su, were highly educated immigrants from mainland China who came to America right after World War II. “Tina Han Su,” her American citizenship name, was born “Su Ting-ting,” in Kunming, south-western China, in 1944. The Su family soon settled in Rochester, NY, where they flourished. Eventually, there were three little Sus, who later became, respectively, an orthodontist, an editor, a rheumatologist.

From the beginning, Tina epitomized femininity for me. Lovely, slender and graceful yet strong, soft-spoken, self-confident without airs, intelligent and considerate, a gifted pianist– she was all these and more. Her middle name, “Han,” means “quiet or reserved” in Chinese, quite apt. A quiet person who listens well; Tina thinks carefully before she speaks. “Still waters run deep.” She is reserved, yet receptive, friendly. After being interviewed by the Cornell sororities, all who had met her invited her to join them. She declined. Instead, she formed close friendships with young women in her dorm, friendships that have lasted decades.


Our Chinese language course met Monday through Saturday from 8AM to 9AM. Tina and I were immediately attracted to each other. If our schedules allowed, we would walk over to Willard Straight Hall’s “Ivy Room” and spend another hour together chatting over tea or coffee. We would plan to meet again as soon as possible.

We quickly fell in love and officially started “going steady” on Valentine’s Day 1963. We walked hand-in-hand all over Cornell’s campus. We were in a dreamland, almost oblivious to our surroundings. When the air was cold, we would each shed one glove and hold hands inside my coat pocket. At night, we would chat and kiss outside her dorm building until a minute before her curfew, and then I would call her on the lobby telephone to continue to talk with her. I worked at the Cornell cyclotron overnight on Saturdays. We enjoyed many a Sunday breakfast at Noyes Lodge, overlooking scenic Beebe Lake. I had little money, but Tina never wanted anything extravagant. She was generous, truly appreciative, rarely critical of anyone, “pretty to walk with and witty to talk with.” We have been in love ever since, almost fifty years.

Although in dreamland, we did awaken. Both sets of parents opposed our getting married, an interracial marriage. Before our last semester together, Tina wrote to me over Christmas vacation.

Dearest Doug,
You asked me what I would think of these sixteen months a few years from now. My reply –now, after one year, after fifty years:
[Tina then quoted much of John Donne’s “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” including the following lines:]
Dull sublunary lovers’ love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.
But we by a love so much refined
That ourselves know not what it is,
Interassured of the mind,
Care less eyes, lips, and hands to miss.”
Happy birthday, darling.
Love, Tina

It was a special poem, by one of my favorite poets, from my most beloved person. It promised that a love like ours would survive separation Twenty years later, June 1984, I recited the same poem to her, at our wedding.

We parted, tearfully, when the semester ended in June 1964. Her parents had arranged for her to be in England for a “junior year abroad” program. I graduated with a degree in physics, obtained a technical job with IBM, and within six months was drafted into the army.

Before we parted, I had told Tina that I hoped we would eventually get married, once we were better established as adults, and if we had not fallen in love with others by then. Tina thought I was just being polite. I really meant it.

Tina graduated from Cornell and then Harvard, both times with distinction. She felt a strong family obligation to marry a man of Chinese ancestry, as she soon did. He was a talented scientist who had grown up in Taiwan, earned a Princeton University Ph.D, and had bright prospects for a fine academic career. They moved to Chicago, where Tina spent the next fifteen years under his domination: going to work, at first on the editorial staff of the Encyclopedia Britannica; coming home to cook, to clean, and to revise his manuscripts. Eventually, she gave birth to two healthy, beloved sons. It was a marriage in the traditional Chinese patriarchal mode, but she was a modern American woman, not a traditional Chinese wife. It did not go well– – for her.

After my U.S. Army stint, mostly in a laboratory, I studied at Penn State and Harvard, getting my own M.S. and Ph.D. I married a woman, Caucasian, who reminded me of Tina, and I pursued a career that included another research position, then faculty appointments at the Harvard School of Public Health. I enjoyed my married life, in Boston’s Back Bay, until I learned that my wife of eight years was having an affair with her flying instructor. She was from a rich family and thought I would have to put up with it. She misjudged.

I spent another two years in Boston, getting divorced, dating, getting engaged, getting disengaged. I never forgot Tina.

Traveling through Chicago on academic business, I called Tina. I told her that I still loved her and that I needed to know how she felt. She said, “Nothing has changed for me in twenty years.” She was still very much in love with me, too.

After I returned to Boston, she and I had several long telephone conversations. Tina had felt oppressed for years. She had been considering divorce. She said that she had learned, two years before this, that she has multiple sclerosis [MS}, a currently incurable immune system malfunction that was impairing her only slightly then but could be crippling in the future. I looked into the literature on MS and spent a sleepless night imagining Tina as she in fact has become: quadriplegic, constrained by various wires and tubes, wholly dependent. Could I handle that? Yes. Could I let her endure without me? No.

During our next phone call, I asked her to marry me. “Yes, yes, yes!” she replied. Note that we had not yet seen each other in over sixteen years. Faith, hope, trust, and love combined to produce that long-distance, sight-unseen commitment. Within a month, we met. Both were very pleased with the person we would be marrying. More than pleased, we were ecstatic.

We married June 2,1984, with parental blessings. Tina’s father’s toast was, “Love conquers all.“ As one conquered, he knew. Our wedding rings are inscribed, “a dream come true.” Soon after we wed, Tina chose to be called “Christina Cooper” to signify a complete change from her old life. A decade later, the point having been made, she returned to “Tina Su Cooper.”

We started in northern Westchester, NY The friendly, white-collar neighbors, predominantly Caucasian, showed us no racial animosity. I worked at IBM’s Yorktown Heights T. J. Watson Research Center for ten years, the best job of my career. During these ten years, Tina’s younger son, our younger son, Phil, who had come with her when she left Chicago, grew up from 3 to 13 years of age. He had no race-related trouble in any of the schools, except once. A friend stood up for him, and the two prevailed. Phil was and is a cheerful, charming, athletic, intelligent, considerate son, and I have loved him as much as I could any son. Ted, Tina’s elder son, stayed with his father in Chicago and was estranged from us for much of that ten-year period, reconciling with us once he became seriously Christian at, surprisingly, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he later graduated as a computer systems engineer.

In 1993, after a lackluster year, IBM announced a “buy-out.” If you were 50 years of age or older, and if you had been with the company at least 10 years, they had a deal for you. Of the thousands of scientists and technicians at the research center, I was among the first who signed up for it. Why? Tina was having progressively greater difficulty in walking. Getting to our second-floor bedrooms had become a real challenge, destined to worsen. We would soon have to move somewhere. I barely qualified for the buy-out in age and number of years served. To me, the crucial element was that we would keep IBM medical benefits. They later proved extremely valuable. We took the buy-out, sold our home, and moved to Ramsey in northern New Jersey.

In 1994, the year after we moved to Ramsey, Tina discovered a small lump, soon confirmed to be breast cancer. She had a mastectomy, underwent chemotherapy, and suffered another MS attack, an “exacerbation” that left her unable to walk. Using our long-term-care insurance from John Hancock Company that we purchased during an “open enrollment period” while I was at IBM, we obtained a home health aide to assist me in caring for the now-bedridden Tina.

Our first aide was Ukrainian, straight from Poland. Kasia had won her green card in a lottery. We found her through a placement agency specializing in bringing Polish women to America to work. She had some nursing training, but knew no English. We started with pantomimes and a Polish-English dictionary. Tina enjoyed teaching her English, which Kasia spoke passably well within half a year. There was, coincidentally, a Ukrainian Orthodox church in Ramsey. Kasia made friends there, giving her a social life on her week-ends. Her Ukrainian American friends kindly drove her various places This did not turn out well. On one such trip, they had a car accident that left her collar bone cracked. Many painful weeks ensued before the problem was correctly diagnosed. Kasia could no longer safely work for us, but she stayed until she had found a job with lighter duty.

Tina’s care at that time was “custodial,” what you would need for an infant, although this “infant” was an alert woman of middle age, weighing about 125 pounds. Tina was bathed and dressed in bed, given frequent disposable diaper changes, and gotten up for every meal, which she could eat on her own. She was transferred to and from her bed with a hand-pumped Hoyer hydraulic lift, a real back-saver. Our aides generally slept in our spare bedroom, though some commuted daily. I handled week-end duty.

Phil finished middle school and high school in Ramsey, graduating near the top of his class and having been elected senior class president. He enrolled at Boston College, where he subsequently succeeded yet again.

When Phil graduated from Ramsey High School in 2000, I retired. I was only 58. I had not expected to retire so young, but finding another position nearby in my technical specialty was difficult. We needed to live in a less expensive area, preferably close to my mother and sister. Walden, NY, where I had gone to high school, met those requirements. We preferred a spot near water, a stream or a river or a lake, and we found one at Lake Osiris, two miles outside of Walden, in a country-club setting. It is like living in a park, our “year-round lake-side vacation home.”

We knew from the beginning of our marriage that we might need substantial savings to handle later, advanced stages of Tina’s MS, so we watched our spending carefully.

Tina nearly died in late February 2004. Her temperature rocketed upward. I called 911. The ambulance took her to Orange County (NY) Regional Medical Center, twenty miles away. She arrived ahead of me and told them she did not want invasive treatment. When I arrived shortly thereafter, I told them to do everything they could to keep her alive. Multiple sclerosis causes many if its victims to have difficulty thinking clearly, especially when over-heated or feverish. I had Tina’s Power of Attorney and was able to make my decision stick. They put her in a medically induced coma and treated her infections aggressively. Not religious back then, I prayed nonetheless. It might help, and it could not hurt. In war, that’s been called a “foxhole conversion.”

Tina awoke from her coma unable to move from her neck down. A breathing tube obstructed her vocal cords, so she could not speak. I cannot imagine her shock. She was not there alone, though. We had supplemented the hospital staff. Our home health aide, Ms. Terry Bush, a devoted semi-retired nurse, agreed to stay with Tina in the hospital during the mornings. I came for the afternoons and some evenings. We reassured Tina. Most importantly, Tina and I told each other, “I love you.”

Terry and I monitored Tina’s treatment. We interpreted to others what she wanted. We had a list of Tina’s usual needs and would have her blink once for “yes” and twice for “no,” as we went through that list. Sometimes, we would guess, and she would respond to the guesses that same way. When that failed, we would go through the alphabet with her, often in the order of the frequency of the letters’ use in the English language.

While still in the Critical Care Unit, Tina was visited by her former college mates, friends who had stayed in touch ever since they graduated together four decades previously. They brought her a stunningly beautiful silk robe, in the Chinese fashion. I feared we might soon be burying her in it.

Tina was alternately recovering and getting re-infected at the hospital. She was released to go home or to a hospice, meaning they gave her only a few months of life expectancy. She chose, we chose, home. We have had seven precious years here since then, with a few emergency trips and week-long hospitalizations.

Tina never regretted leaving that first, oppressive marriage and marrying me. She has never regretted choosing to live as a quadriplegic rather than accepting death. If she can stay strong mentally, the rest of us will handle whatever else is needed. I call her the “Secretary of the Interior,” to emphasize the importance of her morale. When, rarely, she is depressed, so are we. When, as usual, she is cheerful, so are we.

For our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, I gave her a gold, heart-shaped charm, inscribed, “Together Forever.”

Tina and I have told our love story to many people. Often they have responded that we ought to write a book about it. I had written over a hundred technical articles and one book-length dissertation. I knew writing that a book was a major challenge. “Some day, we may,” I would reply.

This February, Tina asked me to write our book. At first, I said “No,” then I relented. I would do almost anything for our “brave soldier,” even this. Several months later, sixty thousand words later, over three hundred standard printed pages later, the book was written, in time to show her a draft for her April 3rd birthday gift. I found an unexpected pleasure in writing it. My gift to Tina had become a gift to us both. Tina and I enjoyed discussing the memoir. It spiced our conversations and brought back memories. I had enlisted friends and family and staff members to write about their interactions with Tina, and I collected these in a final “Tributes” section, which I read to her.

I had a photograph of Tina that was taken when she was twenty-three, three years after we parted. I wanted it for the book cover. A painting based on the photograph was needed. What painter Mike Jaroszko created was stunning. I had it framed and mounted on the wall in time for our twenty-seventh anniversary, then we wheeled Tina to it, eyes closed. When she opened her eyes, she exulted, “Wow!”

About our enduring love and our special marriage, I echo Tina, “Wow!”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


To be published by the Multiple Sclerosis Resource Center, UK

“You ought to write a book,“ Tina and I were told many times, by those to whom we had recounted our love story We had fallen in love forty-eight years ago, were separated for nineteen years and married to others unsuccessfully, were reunited, and have been devoted to each other throughout our twenty-seven years of marriage --- despite the ongoing challenge of her increasing disability due to multiple sclerosis.

Currently quadriplegic, ventilator-dependent, and fed and medicated through a gastric tube, Tina Su Cooper has not given up, nor have we. Her strength and her warmth sustain all of us who love her. She is concerned not only about herself, but about her family, her nurses, our neighbors, our country, the world. She follows the news closely, enjoys documentaries, concerts, classical and romantic music, and the occasional telephone call she makes or receives. She is shielded from pain with a prescription pain-killer, but she still feels warmth or coolness and the pleasures of touching. Her “quality of life,” certainly not optimal, is still very valuable to her and to us.

Tina was born Su Ting-ting in Kunming, China, in 1944. I was already in New York City, born a year before, 7883 miles away. Eighteen years later, in 1963, we met in Chinese class at Cornell, fell in love, and went everywhere hand-in-hand for my last three semesters. Parental advice and parental pressure persuaded us not to chance an interracial marriage. Then, too, we were very young.

Parting was very sad, but we each wanted what was best for the other.

Within a few years, Tina married a scientist from Taiwan, a man of Chinese descent . He expected a submissive, traditional Chinese woman. She was an American girl with a Chinese flavor, an American girl who had graduated with honors from both Cornell (A.B.) and Harvard (A.M.).. She reluctantly submitted. She went out to work, helping to edit the Encyclopedia Britannica, then worked at home, editing her husband’s technical papers, managing the household affairs, rearing two sons. She felt suppressed, stifled, exploited.

Eight years after we had parted, I married a Caucasian woman from Central Pennsylvania whom I had met at Penn State University. It seemed to be a fine marriage for eight years, until she had an affair with her flying instructor. The affair shattered all trust.. We divorced.

I dated for a couple of years, even got engaged and disengaged. Traveling on business through Chicago, where Tina lived, I called her. I told her I still loved her and needed to know whether there was any chance we could be re-united. “Nothing has changed for me in twenty years,” she said, meaning she loved me as much as she had before.

We talked and corresponded many times.. She had been considering divorce. She had recently learned she had multiple sclerosis (MS), which ranges in severity from imperceptible losses to near-total disability. I read about MS, spent a sleepless night considering our future, committed myself to her, called her and asked her to marry me.

“Yes, yes, yes,” she replied.

A painful divorce ensued. Their two boys were split up. Her younger son joined us. The elder son stayed with his father. Children are often divorce’s innocent victims. My willingness to undertake whatever Tina’s illness would require seemed to me to be of some moral compensation for thus injuring an innocent child. Ten years later, the elder son became deeply Christian and reconciled with both of us.

In ten years, that moral debt of mine started to come due. Tina developed breast cancer. This was followed by paraplegia due to MS. Partly to help in Tina’s care, I retired early, and we moved to a “year-round vacation home” in the country.

In our twentieth year, another severe MS exacerbation produced an aspiration-caused pneumonia that nearly killed her, a raging infection finally beaten back by her one-hundred-day stay in the local hospital’s intensive care unit. Tina had awakened after a week of being in a therapeutic coma to find herself unable to move anything below her neck and unable to speak, because she had a breathing tube inserted past her lips and down her throat. She did not panic, did not quit. We communicated by using her eye blinks to respond to my guessing at letters or words or phrases. We also lip-read. The most important message between us: “I love you.”

For awhile, however, Tina got worse, then stabilized, then improved. Having caught an infection from some other patient, she declined again. Recovering, she was advised that she would be safer out of the hospital than in it. The doctors doubted she would live longer than a few months; they gave us the choice of home or a hospice, a choice to fight death or to accept it. A quiet fighter, a “brave solider,” in her father’s words, Tina chose to go home, to fight on, as I wanted, too. American poet Robert Frost wrote that home is where, when you need to go there, they have to take you in. For us, home is where, when you want to be there, they want to take you in.

Seven years of intensive care at home have followed, in our TLC unit, where TLC is “Tina-loving care.”. Still quadriplegic, still ventilator-dependent, and still fed through a gastric tube, Tina soldiers on, loved by family and friends and even by her nurses. She is admired by all who know her. As she told an old friend, “I’m still me.“ She’s cheerful, laughs readily. For the help she receives, she always says, “Thank you.” Often Tina smiles, her “megawatt smile.“ I tell her that she and I have formed a binary star system, two suns brightening and warming each other, as we revolve around a common center.

“Are you going to write our book?” she asked me. We had talked about it several times. I feared the work it would entail. Tina’s determination to live, for herself, for her family, for others she cared about and who cared about her inspired me and might inspire others. I could hardly refuse Tina, my heroine..

I began her book. I made an outline. I wrote pieces. I changed the outline, as influenced by new memories and by the pieces already written. I began to enjoy writing several hours a day. The book grew. I enlisted help from those who know Tina to give me their thoughts, recollections, tributes, which I added to the book. In three months, I had the equivalent of almost 300 printed pages.

Something was happening to me. My rather passive retirement --- reading, walking our dog, helping to manage Tina’s around-the-clock nursing --- became more active, as I wrote and wrote and investigated how to write and publish a book. My life was enriched by what I was doing for Tina.

Something was happening to Tina, too. She was very enthusiastic about the book. I would read parts to her, and she would comment, almost always approvingly. She understood that it was a loving gift from me to her. Generally cheerful, she became more so. She liked to talk about “our book.” When I proposed as a title, The Ting and I, she demurred. She accepted Ting and I. “Ting” was her childhood name, my pet name for her, and the name we use when I pretend she is the Empress Ting of the Ting Dynasty, her Tingdom being her room. Her subjects are stuffed Teddy bears, given by family, friends, nurses. She smiles readily at all this, our sweet and strong Tina.

For the book’s cover, a local artist, Mike Jaroszko, did a marvelous painting, capturing her youthful beauty and her already mature inner strength and tranquility, based on a photograph of Tina at twenty-three.

The book was a birthday gift to Tina that turned out to be a gift to myself, as well. The painting, framed, also became a gift, my gift to Tina for our 27th wedding anniversary. When Tina first saw it, she was visibly moved, almost tearful. “Wow!” she said. It was the first time I had ever heard her use that word. Wow, indeed.

“The gift that keeps on giving” is appropriate here. Our love for each other is a gift. Tina’s continued survival is a gift, as is my own survival. The book I wrote for her has added to the happiness of both of us. In writing it, in overcoming my fear of the challenge, I learned that love and faith can “move mountains.”

We ought to write a book about our love story, our friends had told us. They were right, and I have, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion.

Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D, is a freelance writer, caregiver, and retired physicist, recently the author of Ting and I, which can be obtained through for $0.99 USD as an ebook or $13.95 as a paperback (322pp+).

His web address is

Figure: Post-wedding picture, June 2, 1984. Professor and Mrs. G.J. Su (now deceased), Tina Su Cooper, Douglas Winslow Cooper, and Mrs. P.T. Cooper.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Submitted to MS World, July 2011

E pluribus Unum, from the Great Seal of the United States, “Out of many, one.” If my high school Latin were not so rusty, I would know the Latin for “out of two, one,” which is what has happened on our front lawn. If I were a poet, this would be a poem, a poem having to do with marriage, with our own, interracial marriage. It might have become a poem for America.

Tina and I bought this lake-side home eleven years ago. We wanted a pretty location, as her multiple sclerosis had already progressed to the point where traveling was difficult, likely to become more difficult still, as it did. One lovely feature was a string of a half-dozen Rose of Sharon bushes that had been long established along one edge of the lawn. When they bloom, it is spectacular.

About a year after we settled in, my youngest brother, Chris, and his wife, Nicola, visited us with their two children. Nicola is a transplant to America from England. Tina is a transplant to America from China. For their first visit, they brought us and planted for us a small lilac bush, which has grown tall and strong in the ensuing ten years. Its fragrant and handsome blooms come at a different time of year, “lilac time,” from the Rose of Sharon flowers.

Last year I noticed something unusual: a small Rose of Sharon plant was growing up within the lilac bush, shielded by and cuddling that bush. The fertilized seeds from the Rose of Sharon plants had become airborne and then captured by the lilac, falling to the ground and germinating where they had landed. In some sense there were two plants, different varieties, there. In another sense, the two had become one.

As a metaphor for marriage, I like it very much, Tina and I are one. Chris and Nicola are one. From two, one.

As a metaphor for a diverse society’s harmony, it works, too. “Out of many, one.” E pluribus Unum.


Sunday, October 16, 2011


“Hello, young fella,” the seventy-something golfer yelled to me, greeting Brandy and me as we finished our “business trip” walking around Lake Osiris. Brandy is my twelve-year-old (84 “dog years,” supposedly) Golden Retriever, and her business is what needs to be done after being in the house overnight. My business, at 68, is cardio-vascular and psychological --- it was a beautiful October 16th in southern New York State.

“It’s going to be a great day,” I replied, basking in the early sunshine.

“Every day is a great day,” he said.

“I know what you mean.”

You must admire his spirit. At his age, at mine for that matter, nothing works quite as well as it once did. We have less time left, how much left is unknown. Still valuable, in shorter supply, time is precious. So are naps. So is golf or dog-walking or ….

I returned, walked into the bedroom of my wife, Tina Su Cooper, and told her of this brief interaction. Tina has been my true love for forty-eight years, my beloved wife for twenty-seven years, bedridden for sixteen years, quadriplegic and ventilator dependent for the past seven years, a cheerful heroine to all who know her.

“Every day IS a great day,” she agreed.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Submitted to Marriage Magazine in July 2011

A member of our Lake Osiris Homeowners Association sent me an email indicating that a certain home by our lake was “not surprisingly” up for sale. Intrigued, given the slowness of the current retail market, I asked why it was not surprising. He responded that the couple, whether married or unmarried I know not, had broken up shortly after the birth last year of their first child. A pity, but not rare.

The 1920”s song “My Blue Heaven” had a refrain that went:

Just Molly and me

And baby makes three.

We’re happy in my blue heaven.

Unfortunately, too often “and baby makes two,” considering the numerous out-of-wedlock births and post-partum break-ups that occur.

The once-a-couple selling their house in our community had been together for years. It is doubtful that the baby was unplanned, an accident. Mom has moved out, so it does not seem to have been a ploy to get the house and child support, and their long-standing relationship argues against that, too. She has gone, with the baby. He’s in the house and may have the dog. Who knows what goes on in someone else’s marriage?

To discuss “and baby makes two” I convened an informal Brain Trust of a couple of my bedridden wife’s nurses and our home health aide / home manager. I asked why do many couples break up soon after the first child?

“I didn’t sign up for this” was an immediate response. Making a baby is fun, but taking care of a baby is work, smelly, noisy, tiring, inconvenient work. Sleep deprivation makes it all harder. Money worries arise. Changes preceding the baby’s birth cause problems, too. Not all men find the pregnant woman alluring. Not all pregnant women are as interested in sex as they were a few months before. Childbirth is traumatic, even when the outcome is a blessing. There’s no great response to your wife’s suffering while giving birth. Next can come post-partum depression, due to a mix of hormonal changes and increased responsibility, tempered with a parental joy in having this child of one’s own. Women tend to feel that joy more than do men.

Another cause of “and baby makes two” is having a child “to save the marriage.” If the union is shaky, the addition of a baby is not likely to strengthen it. Just the opposite is true. You need to have chosen wisely the person you marry and chosen wisely within the marriage.

My first marriage was childless, by mutual agreement. My second marriage brought with it a three-year-old son, whom I have loved these past twenty-seven years. Admittedly, the messy parts of the child-creating, child-bearing, child-rearing process were mostly over by the time I “acquired” Phil. Tina and I discussed having a “child of our own” but decided against it, for reasons medical and psychological. As told in my book, Ting and I, my love for Phil’s mother has been so deep that this marriage will not fail, but Tina’s increasing disability due to multiple sclerosis made having another child impractical.

Mother and child without father are more likely to be poor. That child is more likely to get into trouble. A subsequent marriage produces a stepfather-stepchild relationship often hazardous to the male or female child.

Couples considering conception ought to read beforehand the 1997 book by marriage counselors and psychologists John M. Gottman, Ph.D, and Julie Schwartz Gottman, Ph.D., And Baby Makes Three: The Six-Step Plan for Preserving Marital Intimacy and Rekindling Romance after the Baby Arrives. Much of it is uncommon “common sense.” For the sake of parents and child, it is crucial to create a culture of mutual appreciation to replace a culture of criticism too often present. Sound financial planning is needed. Sleep must have high priority. Communicate with each other.

Commitment involves promise keeping. Each partner needs to keep the promises made and have faith that the other partner will do the same. Religious faith or philosophical conviction can help one to keep those promises during the most difficult periods.

Be careful. Be realistic. Be prepared. Be committed. “Two is company; three is a crowd” was not meant to apply to having a child. We don’t need another tragic story, another broken family, another house for sale.



Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., is a freelance writer and a retired physicist, author of Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion. Their web site is, and his email address is .

Friday, October 14, 2011


Excerpted from Ting and I
It is said about Washington, DC, that if you want a friend there, get a dog.

Tina had not had pets while growing up, at least not the conventional dog or cat or bird. My childhood was the opposite, with dogs, cats, birds at various times. As noted above, my childhood favorite dog was Duke, a Retriever/Husky mix, handsome, intelligent, affectionate and protective. He was Husky-tough and Retriever-gentle. Tina and I decided, when Phil was ten or so, to get a dog, preferably a Golden Retriever.

When we were at Ledgewood Commons in Millwood, Tina and I saw an ad asking for someone to adopt both a German Shepherd and a Golden Retriever from a boarding operation, because their owner had died many months before. We got Muffin, an eight-year-old blond Golden Retriever, separating her from her companion, as we could not handle both. Tina fell in love with Muffin, who became a valuable member of our small household. Muffin could be protective, too, as a Shepherd-mix dog found one afternoon when he got too close to Tina and me. Muffin bit him and sent him off. Muffin usually spent much of the day in the kitchen with Tina. They had bonded.

Muffin was a good sport. Once, when Ted visited us, he and Phil arranged to put a disposable diaper (hole cut out for tail) on Muffin, who took it good-naturedly, without enthusiasm.

Muffin died in 1995 and we waited about five years to get another dog, A few months before retiring and moving to Lake Osiris, I told colleagues that we were moving to a country location and would like to have a dog there, preferably a Golden Retriever. Like being rewarded for casting one’s bread upon the waters, I soon was contacted by a co-worker whose year-old Golden that had turned out to be too much for her six- and eight-year-old children to handle, an unsolvable problem because both parents worked. The dog had “failed” obedience school. Brandy, having a coat as deep red as her name suggests, was indeed a headstrong alpha female; but she has grudgingly allowed me to be boss, at least sometimes.

Tina was using a wheelchair by then, and Brandy somehow knew she needed Brandy’s protection. Brandy liked to play tug of war with Phil or with me, but would not pull anything from Tina’s hand. She got between Tina and a physical therapist when Tina cried, “Ouch!” She preferred to sleep on the porch in cold weather, but many nights would find her indoors, asleep outside Tina’s bedroom door.

Brandy was Phil’s buddy but acted more like my partner. After only a few months in the new house, she came upstairs to alert me to something amiss: the propane heater was sputtering, as the tank was running out, and Brandy thought it might be dangerous. Smart. She is not allowed in the living room. I put a sign where she could read it: “No Brandy.”

She is my personal trainer and I am hers. In good weather, we “circum-ambulate” Lake Osiris, a scenic mile-long walk that once took twenty minutes, but now takes twenty-five. After our neighbor’s fierce Akita, a Japanese police dog, died, Brandy named herself boss dog of Lake Osiris, a position she has enforced since then with all the other dogs nearby. Recently, at age 11, Brandy put an obnoxious visiting pit bull terrier in his place, when the dog, running loose, came too close to us.

When Brandy wants something or when a change of nursing shift occurs, she finds me to let me know. Different looks and different motions convey different messages. She has a variety of barks, ranging from “I want to be on the porch” to “if this strange man [UPS delivery] tries to come in, I’ll tear him limb from limb.” Once, when she heard the MGM lion’s roar on the TV, she ran to the TV set to confront it. Even those nurses who are not generally comfortable with dogs have gotten to like Brandy and are reassured by her protective presence. The dog-lovers love her, too.

Brandy knows how to please. Some mornings, when she wants to get fed or go out before I am up, she stands ten feet from my bed and stares silently at me. If I wake up, I call her to me and then either get up and do as she wants, or tell her to go lie down, let me rest, which she does. If staring doesn’t wake me, she lies down and waits quietly for me to wake up. Such a good dog.

Tina also became very fond of the parakeets we had. Perry was first, while we were in Ramsey. He only lived three years, a bit short for a ’keet. We tried again, several years later, with Amy, whose cage was in Tina’s bedroom. Another delightful companion, who also lived only about three years. Too sad to try a third.

The dog my mother and sister have now is a Beagle, Russell. Rescued from a pound, he seems perpetually happy and grateful. My sister dotes on him, taking her marching orders from him. I, on the other hand, explained to the little person in a fur coat, as my sister sees him, that I am the Alpha Doug and he is the Beta Beagle. When he visits us, Brandy imparts much the same lesson. She lets him share our living space: Russell can be under the tables; Brandy has the rest.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Dr. Burns very favorably reviewed Ting and I: A Memoir...  for CONNECT, the international, on-line journal for critical care nursing. See the review in a September blog here.

Dr. Burns is recognized inter-nationally as a leader in the nursing profession for excellence in clinical practice and educating students, developing innovative educational programs that are responsive to community needs, maintaining an international research focus while mentoring other professionals in their research programs, a lifetime body of scholarly achievement that has advanced nursing science, advocacy of the nursing profession nationally and abroad, and tirelessly providing service through national and international professional nursing organizations.

Dr. Patricia Burns served as Dean of the College of Nursing at the University of South Florida from 1997 to 2010. Under her leadership the College of Nursing rose in national stature for its innovative educational programs and the quality of its research. Prior to her move to Tampa in 1997, Dr. Burns was Chair of the Nurse Practitioner Program at the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB) School of Nursing. Dr. Burns received her Bachelor degree in Nursing from D’Youville College at Buffalo, and both her Masters degree in Adult Nurse Practitioner and PhD in Medical Sociology from the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB).

Dr. Burns has lead an outstanding career in clinical nursing. She practiced in general medical surgical nursing at the Edward J. Meyer Memorial hospital in Buffalo New York from 1960-1976. During which time she was recognized for her outstanding nursing with the Edward j. Meyer Memorial Hospital Nursing proficiency Award, the Edward J. Meyer Memorial Scholarship, and received the first of many Nurse Training Grants from the federal government. As a Nurse Practitioner in private practice from 1978 to her move to Tampa Florida in 1997, Dr. Patricia Burns developed a practice eventually specializing in female urinary incontinence.

Dean Burns is a nationally recognized researcher in female urinary incontinence. During her career she has been funded for over 50 research studies and nursing training grants totally over $11 million. Dr. Burns has served as a reviewer for national and international journals, participated in federal and private grant review panels, published extensively both nationally and internationally in her specialty, and was one of the team that developed a federally patented “Improved Perineometer” device.

Dr. Burns has and does hold leadership roles in national nursing organizations. She served as President of the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculty, and the Southern Regional Education Board Nursing Council. She has served in leadership roles in both the American Association of College of Nursing and its national accrediting body the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Dr. Burns has been recognized for her advocacy with many awards and achievements in her career including: Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition; the Outstanding Leadership Award presented to her by Sigma Theta Tau, Delta Beta Chapter, FONE Region II Leadership Award Overall, Tampa Bay Business Journal 2006 Health Care Heroes Special Recognition Award, and Fellowship in the American Academy of Nursing. 

Monday, October 10, 2011


Epublished in

I was sorry to read, in, of which I am very fond, some college student commenters defending the practice of buying term papers and passing them off as their own. Not only does that cheat the institution they attend, it cheats the other students and cheats the cheater himself. Let me explain.

Colleges both teach and certify. Part of teaching is assigning and evaluating term papers, identifying the strengths and weaknesses thereof, so that the student is praised for good performance and criticized for bad performance. Evaluating a purchased term paper has little teaching benefit. The course grade and even the degree eventually obtained depend somewhat on these purchased papers. If the student is not worthy of the grades or the degree, then the college reputation suffers a loss, however small.

Your excellent grade helps you but slightly diminishes the value of another student’s grade. If there are relatively many top grades, they carry less weight than if such grades were rare. If virtually everyone passes the course, passing has less significance. Thus, cheating to get a better grade, or even merely to pass, slightly harms other students, as they are evaluated in comparison to you. Those you harm, if they become aware of what is happening, will resent you and what you are doing.

What is the impact on you, personally? You can find excuses for cheating, but you almost certainly cannot be proud of it. If you evade the hard work of writing the term paper, you have lost an opportunity to strengthen yourself through work. You may think you understand the topic of the purchased paper, but you would likely know it better if you had written the paper yourself. If you are cheating, you either think it is common, giving you a low opinion of your fellow students, or you think it is rare, giving you a low opinion of yourself.

Perhaps it was only the short-hand of email, but I generally found the English language usage of the defenders of term paper buying to be deficient. Whoever hires them on the basis of their falsified college performance will soon be unpleasantly surprised, bad for both employer and employee.

Right after World War II, Japan accelerated industrial production rapidly, with an emphasis on low cost and high volume, with little regard to quality. This succeeded in the marketplace for years, but Japanese goods became tarnished with the reputation of poor quality. Subsequently, a revolution in Japanese quality control, aided by W. Edwards Deming’s works on statistical quality control, helped make Japanese goods renowned for high quality, to everyone’s benefit. The investments were major, but the rewards even greater.

“Virtue is its own reward,” in terms of how we feel about ourselves and how we treat each other. Cheating is corrosive to self-esteem and to trust and to fairness. Write your own term paper!


Excerpted from Ting and I

Preparing to write this memoir, I had reserved a special section about my friendship with David Brudnoy, whom I would have described as my best male friend during the period from 1969 to 1983, my years in Cambridge and Boston.

David, famous in Boston and well-known in national conservative political circles, died in December 2004. I had long believed that we were very close friends. In a gift he once gave me of a leather-bound autobiographical volume, The Education of Henry Adams, Dave wrote, “One of the greatest books to one of the greatest friends.” As a gift to Tina and me, associated with his single visit to us (in Bedford Mews), he gave us another leather-bound volume, Milton’s Paradise Lost, with the inscription, “To Tina and Doug, who have regained Paradise. Love, Dave, Feb. ’85.” Seemed very friendly to me.

David was the very bright only son of a Midwestern Jewish dentist and his wife. He was talented, ambitious, hard-working, and homosexual. Let’s add charming, warm, always polite. We became strong political allies. When I first met him, he was leaving the left to join the right, or at least the libertarian, minimum-government faction of conservatism, where he remained.

A thing I admired about Dave was that he took rational argument seriously. Abortion was a main issue at the time. He favored its being legal. I did not. I did not argue from the perspective of religion. My argument was closer to Kant’s moral imperative. I showed him the consequences of not defining a human organism as one with the human genetic code, from fertilization on.

Definitions of humanness based on awareness, rationality, age in the womb, etc. led to allowing practices such as euthanasia or the harvesting of embryonic organs, practices that are repulsive and dangerous. I won’t go into the details here, but Dave was intellectually honest enough to concede and to maintain that new position as his thereafter. He understood that arguments that start, “I know it’s human, but ...” refute themselves.

During my Cambridge and Boston years, Dave and I would talk frequently on the phone or in person. We would breakfast together monthly, sometimes with C, at the elegant Park Plaza Hotel. We lived a few blocks apart in the Back Bay and had many mutual friends, in the media and in libertarian and conservative circles. For example, we both spoke at a “Tell It to Hanoi” rally on the Boston Common, December 7, 1969, before a few thousand supporters of the U.S. role in the Viet Nam War. When he wrote an article on the occasion for National Review, he noted “Harvard YAFer Doug Cooper gave the evening’s most thoughtful speech: ‘The war is not hurting us so much as are its critics, who clamor only for material things; we need more than a higher standard of living; we need a higher standard of character.” I had arrived at Harvard in September 1969, only three months earlier than he, so this would have been one of our earliest interactions.

In 1997, fourteen years after I moved from Boston, Dave finished a memoir, Life Is Not a Rehearsal, detailing his growing up, his ideological journey and professional success, his lovers, his homosexuality, his drug use, his AIDS, and his losses due to that lifestyle. He was at that time enmeshed in a very painful decline that ended seven years later.

The blurb on the book jacket summarized his professional history: “A graduate of Yale with a major in Japanese, David Brudnoy went to graduate school at Harvard (East Asian Studies) before getting his Ph.D. in American intellectual history at Brandeis. In 1976 he won a full-time talk radio slot at Boston’s WHDH, then moved to WRKO in 1981, finally going to the region’s powerhouse, WBZ, in 1986. In addition to his hugely successful radio show on WBZ, he is a TV commentator, film critic, newspaper essayist on politics and travel, and teacher of journalism at Boston University.” They could have added that he was a frequent contributor to conservative journals, especially National Review, but “conservative” might not have helped book sales.

By the time Dave’s book was published, 1997, I was sufficiently distracted with Tina’s and my life that I did not read it. Lately, writing this memoir, I’ve dipped into it, getting many a surprise. Dave had revealed to me toward the beginning of our friendship, in 1970, that he was homosexual, something he asked me to keep secret. I knew nothing of his frequent drug use (Mescaline and LSD), until now. I knew he had a drinking problem for a while, but I did not know the seriousness of it.

David, I hardly knew ye.

It seems that the friendship I thought we had was, in fact, of minimal significance to him. I was not gay, as so many of his closest pals were. Once, in reference to a media opportunity he could have opened up for me, he let slip that “my father told me never to promote a rival.” Rival? I thought we were buddies.

I left Boston in 1983, and I do not recall seeing him after that, other than his visit to us in 1985 and my trip to Boston with our son Phil in 2000, where we had a highly enjoyable fancy lunch together. Phil would be at Boston College starting that year. I was not eager for the two of them to become in any sense close.

Dave’s book reveals that for all his success in worldly terms, his was a sad life, especially toward the end. He was a talented, ambitious, industrious man. His uncle, Herbert Isbin, was a noted physicist/engineer. A cousin, Sharon Isbin, is a well-known professional guitarist. As I knew at that time, and as his book reveals even more clearly, his homosexuality was paramount in his life. There is a narcissism, coupled with insecurity, a reflexive anti-conventionality, a superficiality, and an obsession with sex that I came to associate with the homosexual lifestyle, where promiscuity is markedly more prevalent than among heterosexuals. You can look that up.

David memorialized one of his very close friends (someone I knew casually) under a pseudonym in his book: “Blitz” died of AIDS in November 1989, at about 40 years of age. An earlier tribute Dave had written, using Blitz’s real name, had gotten Dave excommunicated from that family’s inner circle, which deeply hurt him. Dave told me he himself was nearly killed by a one-night-stander. His book reveals his belief that his best friend probably died that way.

Dave died in December 2004, 64 years old, of a painful and prolonged illness likely caused by homosexual sex. Absent the gay sex and perhaps the drugs, his life expectancy would have been in the mid-eighties. He lost twenty years. He described himself in his book as not brave but a “thrill seeker.” Was it worth dying for, Dave? Blitz? R. I. P.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


I have not figured out how to enable my  "comments" option. I have looked at the documentation and it tells me to go to Settings|Comments, which I cannot find. When I try to post a comment to test this out, it will not allow me to post it. You probably cannot post a comment here, either, but if you do, tell me how you did it. Otherwise, please write to me at At this point, perhaps naively, I'd be inclined to allow all comments to be


Friday, October 7, 2011


Excerpted from Ting and I

During the first few years of our marriage, Tina’s gait was steady, though her steps were small. She drove our second car with care, but with decreasing ability. I tried to get her to cease. We first had the car adapted to hand controls for the gas pedal, but she had trouble learning their use and usually reverted to foot controls. Toward the end of the Ledgewood Commons phase (1986-93), she pushed the gas pedal rather than the brake pedal while backing up, shot past me and through the open area between the buildings, then smacked into a neighbor’s garage, causing $17,000 worth of damage to their garage. We love you, too, State Farm Insurance.

Fortunately, no children were playing where they often did, or the mishap could have been lethal. Reluctantly, Tina relinquished her car keys and never drove again. Thereafter, she felt, perhaps correctly, that the neighbors viewed her as a bit of a hazard. When I decided to accept a buyout offer from IBM soon afterward, she was not sad to leave, except for having to say goodbye to Ruth and Mal Goldberg, Zane and Wendy Garfein.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Excerpted rom Ting and I
Multiple sclerosis—MS—is believed to be an autoimmune disease, in which the body’s immune system attacks the covering of nerve cells, the myelin sheath, leading to scarring of the sheath and a loss of its primary function, electrical insulation.

Nerves throughout the body, but principally in the spinal cord and brain, can be damaged this way. The damage can affect sensory, motor, or brain nerves, leading to a wide variety of symptoms, from tingling to paralysis to loss of coordination or cognitive skills and sometimes loss of sight and speech. Many cases remain relatively mild, producing annoying but not disabling losses, and not shortening the victims’ lives.

Four types of MS are usually described, but most patients, as did Tina, go from having relapsing-remitting episodes of MS to having a secondary progressive form, with a slow, sometimes very slow, continued loss of function. Our neurologist has speculated that Tina’s immune response may have “burned itself out,” so that the slow healing of the neurological system may lead to gradual improvement. We hope so.

For several weeks when Tina was near 10 years old, she had an episode of blindness, an optical neuritis that might have been a warning sign that she had MS, which is hard to diagnose, because of the wide spectrum of symptoms. MS is rare enough, one per thousand in the U.S., that it can easily be overlooked. It is a heritable vulnerability, with children of MS victims having a 1 percent chance of developing the disorder (about ten times the incidence in the population at large). The likelihood of an identical twin having it is 30 percent, if the other does. Environmental factors also play a role, with children born in sunny climes less likely to develop MS. There is evidence suggesting a connection with vitamin D, as well as sunlight. Tina is mildly allergic to vitamin D, developing an itchy rash from ingestion and even from exposure to sunlight, which generates vitamin D in the exposed skin.

The Epstein-Barr virus, the cause of mononucleosis, not uncommon in children, may trigger the mistaken immune response. Much is still to be discovered.

So far, there is no cure. Various methods of suppressing the immune system reduce the frequency and severity of the attacks, but only imperfectly and at the cost of leaving the patient more susceptible to infections. In 1994, Tina optimistically started one of these drugs, beta interferon; but after a few months the neurologist stopped it when her white blood cell count became dangerously low. Tina found the lump that was a breast cancer shortly thereafter and believes that the immunosuppressive drug caused it. While it is true that immune suppression can allow the development of some cancers, the process takes time, a decade or more, rather than weeks.

The on-again, off-again nature of MS leads to credence in “discoveries” of dubious “cures” that turn out to be just a matter of lucky timing. Special diets, bee venom shots, removal of dental amalgam, and, currently, the surgical enlargement of veins leading from the brain, are among the many remedies that have been proposed and have become fads, but none have proved effective after extensive testing.

When we married, June 1984, the signs of Tina’s MS were virtually invisible, although she did feel more tired than she thought she should. By 1990, she was still able to walk, but only in baby steps; her fatigue had worsened, and she showed some loss of mental clarity.

By 1993, she was using a cane, was barely able to climb stairs, and it was time to move from our duplex. Short-term memory and occasional reasoning losses were noticeable, as well.

During the Ledgewood Commons period, Tina had a severe MS exacerbation, bad enough that she was hospitalized, though I do not remember the symptoms. She was treated with ACTH, a powerful steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, intravenously. The second day of hospitalization, she told me a lurid tale of highly improper activity at the hospital by a neighbor who was a doctor on the staff. I was shocked. Before I lit into the hospital staff, I asked her some more questions, as the story made no sense. None of it made sense. None of it had happened. She was suffering from steroid psychosis, her brain’s overreaction to the drug. Many more strange ideas popped into her head that week. This persisted for a week, a very sad week, as I feared it would not be reversible. It was.

Twenty years later, a milder steroidal treatment (an inhaler) produced initial indications of steroid psychosis, so we discontinued it, and the symptoms faded away.

We visited my mother and sister in Tucson around the spring of 1990. They had a ranch house with a lovely pool. Tina had not been swimming since the previous summer, so she was eager to do so, and she had been an excellent swimmer in the past. I went into the pool with her and was shocked to see her starting to drown. She could no longer swim. True, her gait had gotten a bit worse, but neither of us expected this. What if I had been late in joining her?