My wife owns a magnificent Tiffany lamp that I despise. This lamp hasn’t done anything to offend me, and it’s not defective in any way that other people would care about. I just don’t like Tiffany lamps. They seem untidy to me. Maybe even gaudy. I know that people think the damn things are beautiful. But I think you could smash a dozen different wine bottles in a bucket and pour in a pot of glue, and eight hours later you’d have something quite as attractive as any Tiffany lamp ever created.
I suppose they’re just not my thing.
She received this monstrosity as a Christmas gift a long time ago. We celebrated Christmas at my parents’ house that year, and early in the afternoon my dad and I happened to be talking about light fixtures. That wasn’t an unlikely topic of conversation for us, along with diesel engines, construction equipment, the probability of exceedingly unlikely events, and how to beat games that are inherently crooked. For some reason only God and The Great Kreskin know, the words, “I don’t really like Tiffany lamps,” came out of my mouth. My dad grinned slightly, and that should have warned me. An hour later my wife unwrapped a big Tiffany lamp while my dad laughed at me and shook his head.
Of course my wife adored the lamp, as would any normal person. I lobbied to put the lamp in the spare room, or maybe next to the washing machine. My wife instead chose to use the thing as her bedside light, where she could look at it every evening. So this mass of fused glass and lead resembling a great wad of dragon snot sat five feet from me for eight hours a day, or about one third of the rest of my life—until tonight.
When my wife turned on the Tiffany horror this evening, I heard her say, “Oh damn.” I looked around, and the lamp was not spreading its crazy-quilt of light across the room in which I was expected to rest. That didn’t cheer me particularly, as I figured the bulb had burned out, although as my wife walked out of the bedroom to get a new bulb I considered flinging the lamp to the floor and blaming it on two or three of the cats. She returned and replaced the bulb, and—still no light. The lamp had been flickering a bit for some time, and now it had obviously reached the end of its miserable existence.
“I guess we can go lamp shopping tomorrow!” I said, as if we’d be shopping for kittens and magic beans.
“No,” she said. “Maybe we can fix it.”
I didn’t want to flat out lie to her. “Well… I guess it can be fixed.”
She held up the switch, which was in the cord itself. “I think the problem is here. I heard it crackling.”
“We might be able to fix that then.” I chewed the inside of my cheek. “If we can find another switch at Home Depot or somewhere.” I said that as if it were as likely as finding the Crown Jewels at Dairy Queen.
We took the hopefully deceased-beyond-redemption lamp to a room that had real light. My wife pointed out that the switch was a bit loose, so maybe we could take it apart and tighten everything up. I silently admitted that I was screwed.
I fetched my tiny screwdrivers that my dad had given me, because every guy needs tiny screwdrivers. We disassembled the switch. Like an oaf I dropped the teensy nut that held the screw in place. It was about the size of a sesame seed. I wondered if I’d subconsciously dropped the thing hoping it would disappear forever, maybe stolen by a cartoon mouse or something. But my wife found the nut, and we carried out a somewhat bumbling but successful switch repair.
We only needed to slip the tiny nut back into place and screw the switch together. But I found that my hand didn’t want to put the nut in place. In fact, it wanted to put the nut everyplace except the proper location. My hand shook all the hell over the place. Oh, so this is the way it’s going to be, you bastard, I thought to my hand, and I gave the nut to my wife for proper emplacement in the switch.
This was a surprise, but not a shock. My hands had been amusing me with random shaking off and on for a few months. It had annoyed me, but it hadn’t slowed me down all that much. I had asked a really nice neurologist to check it out for me. After a bunch of cool tests, the highlight of which was sleeping through an MRI, he assured me that no brain tumor was about to kill me. That made me happy. He followed that with, “So get used to this shaking thing. It’s like your dad’s. It won’t kill you, but it ain’t getting any better.” I guess that’s not an exact quote. He used more medical terms than that, and I think he said “probe” at least once. He also said there are some interesting drugs for this, but they make you sleepy. They can completely control the shaking, but you’ll be completely unconscious while they do it. No thanks.
So as my wife carried the resurrected Tiffany lamp back to the bedroom in glory, I reflected that this was the first time I’d been entirely unable to do some dumb little thing because my hands were becoming disobedient shits. The hand rebellion is headed south from here, although how far and how fast is a mystery. I sat at the table in the good light, pouted, and oozed displeasure, which helped me exactly zero.
Well, it ought to be fun to see where this goes. When my dad was younger, there wasn’t much he couldn’t do with his hands. Today, getting food into his mouth is a challenge. Dialing a telephone is out of the question. Writing and typing—well that sure as hell isn’t going to happen.
On the other hand, there are things to look forward to. If I’m subtle, I might be able to break the Tiffany lamp someday and claim it wasn’t my fault. My hand just did it all on its own. Don’t blame me.