Thanks Bob Cousy

I have a former professor who is a full-time caregiver for his wife, because that’s what love means. Here is a wonderful story about the Boston Celtic great, Bob Cousy:

Bob Cousy knows a bit about game plans, and he and his wife, Missie, were always a team. In the early days of their marriage, when the Celtics star was gone for weeks at a time, Missie made her husband a presence in the family home by telling her daughters where he was and what he was doing. Decades later, when Missie slowly succumbed to the ravages of dementia, her husband ensured that the woman he called “my bride” was always by his side, even as her mind wandered where he couldn’t follow.

Last week, after 63 years of marriage, Bob Cousy said goodbye to his bride. His loved ones say he’s bereft, inconsolable. And they’re surprised that he agreed to an interview, because Cousy is a private man who cared for Missie alone for more than a decade, never seeking help, services or sympathy. That wasn’t in the game plan. …

Today, the Celtic legend known as “Cooz” is 85 but looks younger by a decade. Articulate and gracious, he tears up easily when discussing his wife and the love affair that flourished as the couple aged.

“Our marriage was somewhat contrary to tradition,” he said. “Most couples have the most intensity in the beginning. But I was always working. So we had the best and most romantic part of our marriage at the end. We literally held hands for the last 20 years.”

Missie’s cognitive decline was gradual and began a dozen years ago, Cousy said. She would ask him the same question, over and over. She hallucinated, grew disoriented and struggled with balance. But she always knew her husband, and she bristled at any suggestion that she suffered from dementia.

So Cousy worked hard to create the perception that his once-independent wife was vital and healthy. Because she believed she could still drive, he shipped her station wagon to their place in Florida each winter so she could see it in the driveway. Artificial red flowers were planted in her garden. He did all the household chores and let her think she performed them herself. ….

The couple’s social life vanished as Missie’s symptoms worsened. Other than a Thursday night “out with the boys” and some quick rounds of golf, Cousy spent all of his time alone with his bride. He watched “General Hospital” with Missie and patiently answered the same questions. He stocked the fridge with her favorite candy, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. At night, she’d cover him with a blanket and he’d stroke her arm.

“I love you honey,” he’d say.

“I love you, too,” Missie would always reply.

The sports legend who led the Celtics to six World Championships said he never felt defeated by the challenge of caring full time for his ailing spouse.

“It drew us closer together,” he said. “It was never a chore, because I knew she would have done the same for me. You just have to go with the flow. Every three months, I’d scream out something just for release.” …

Today, Cousy is consoled by memories of his bride and the knowledge that she was happy until the end of her days. Ever the class act, he marveled that the son of poor French immigrants could enjoy such a charmed, fortunate life — athletic fame, loving daughters, grandchildren and a wife he adored. Only when asked what he missed most about Missie did he struggle for composure.

“I can’t put the pills out in the morning,” he said. “And I can’t care for her anymore.”

Still, every night he goes to bed and tells his wife that he loves her. For a man as devoted and steadfast as Bob Cousy, it’s hard to alter the game plan.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Nate Yoder

    Great and inspiring story! Thanks for sharing Scot.

  • Myron Williams

    what a marvelous lesson for us all, and especially in an era when it seems the sports heroes are not often as loving and faithful as this great ball player and husband. may his tribe increase.

  • Timothy P

    Thanks for the article. Cousy was one of the bball greats, legends that inspired many players when I was growing up on bball (in the 90s). Reminds me of Robertson McQuilkin’s testimony of stepping down as president of CIU to take care of his wife, Muriel.