A love story almost
50 years long.
times, a couple our age would
have gotten engaged, perhaps
soon after Tina was to graduate. However, it had become
clear that an interracial marriage
would estrange Tina from her
parents. My parents argued that
it would bring complications for
ourselves and for any children
we might have. We were young,
with little real experience in the
adult world. Neither of us wanted
to make a decision that would
harm the other. We accepted our
parents’ persuasion and parted
sorrowfully when I graduated in
June of 1964.
Tina’s parents had arranged for
her to spend junior year abroad
in England, where her father, a
professor of engineering, was taking his sabbatical year. That put
the Atlantic Ocean between us, a
Meanwhile, I was drafted into
the U.S. Army. Tina returned to
finish at Cornell, went to Harvard,
dated men of Chinese ancestry
only, and married a promising
scientist from Taiwan, who took
a faculty position in Chicago.
She spent the next 15 years
under his thumb. He had
expected a traditional Chinese
woman, but she was an
American girl with a Chinese
flavor. Their marriage was rocky,
but two fine sons were born.
Her first exacerbation came right
after that second son’s birth.
I went on to graduate school
at Penn State and Harvard. I
married a Caucasian woman
who reminded me of Tina, and
steadily progressed professionally,
becoming an associate professor of environmental physics at
the Harvard School of Public
Health. Unfortunately, eight
years into my marriage, I found
out my wife was having an affair.
She was from a rich family and
thought she could get away with
it. Wrong. We divorced.
Much later, on a business trip
via Chicago, I called Tina. We
had been separated 19 years, but
it was as if we had been apart
for a few weeks. Before calling,
I had suspected her marriage to
be in trouble. I told her I had
to know whether we could ever
be married. I planned to wait, if
“Nothing has changed for
me,” she told me over the phone.
We soon talked regularly long-distance and she told me she had
MS. I read up on it and spent
a very sad night imagining her
someday to be quadriplegic or on
a ventilator. Could I handle that,
if I had to? Yes. Could I bear
to walk away and learn some
day she had gone through that
without me? No.
“Will you marry me?”
“Yes, yes, yes!”
I had yet to see her. When we
did finally meet, I was thrilled.
She was all I hoped she would be.
As soon as her divorce was
final, we married, on June 2,
1984, and her father toasted us
with, “Love conquered all.” Her
parents had surrendered gracefully. Our wedding rings were
inscribed, “A dream come true.”
“Be a brave soldier,” Tina’s father
had often told her in her youth.
The doctors at the critical care
unit estimated she would live
only a few months after her bout
with pneumonia. Since then,
we’ve had seven years—precious,
sometimes difficult, wonderful
years. We fight on, my brave
soldier and I, undefeated, so far.
I thank God daily for the
miracle of another day that we
are together. To life! n
Doug, Tina and son, Phil Chiang, today
Douglas Winslow Cooper, PhD,
retired physicist, is the author of Ting
and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage,
and Devotion, from Outskirts Press,
also available through his website