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.

Some people have told me my blog isn’t very personal, but I’m not sure that’s true. A lot of the stuff I’ve posted is about what I think and do and experience. But I admit it’s not too immediate. I don’t tend to write about the fact that there’s a cat lying on 15% of my keyboard right now, misspelling words and opening unneeded menus with her ass. She’s keeping my wrists warm though, which is good because I got up stupid-ass early and it feels cold (yes, even here in Texas).

I don’t know if I’m comfortable with blog-immediacy, because that creates intimacy between me and whoever in the whole damn world runs across this blog and wants to read it. My wife likes to say that she’s an open book–what you see is what you get with her. She also says that if she’s an open book then I’m a closed book with straps that lock, and tiny print inside along with maybe some indecipherable drawings, and arcane symbols on the outside, and a general air of “get out of here, you god damn kids” around the whole thing. I used to be worse, but living with her has loosened me up a bit.

So, I’ll give this a try. Yesterday afternoon I was parallel parking, which I’m good at, while telling my wife a story about work. I don’t tell stories all that well while I’m parallel parking. I thought the story showed my fantastic qualities in my job, under insanely crappy circumstances, and I admit I was selfishly looking for some positive reinforcement. I was like a kid bringing my mom a watercolor that might be a horse or might be a Ferris wheel so she could exclaim how great it was and put it on the refrigerator. The main message of my story ended up being, “I didn’t kill anyone yesterday,” and her quite logical response was, “do you want reinforcement for not doing something illegal?” I need to work on my “pathetic plea for attention” technique.

We’d been invited by some friends to a “contra” dance. This kind of dancing is sort of like square dancing, except there’s a lot of spinning and stomping involved. The dancers behave less like  the cast of Hee Haw, and more like cowboys off the trail in Dodge City, although they laugh more and shoot people in the head less. They were really nice. I’ve danced a pretty long time, so I picked up the steps easily enough. The style was harder for me. I danced like a flamingo who knew all the steps. But the night before I’d been a moron, and as I leaned over the side of the bed to kiss my wife I tried to be cute and ended up hyper-extending my knee. Yes, I’m fairly old.

So I danced one dance, sat one dance, danced one dance, etc. for a while, and I got to waltz with my wife (and we realized we need more practice). Then everybody took a break, so we talked with our friends and had a good time. This was three hours of contra dancing, which is really aerobic and just like getting your heart muscle kicked in the nuts. I wanted to dance some with my wife, but as soon as each dance ended somebody else asked her to dance within the time it takes for light to travel from my right nipple to my left nipple. My wife is a lovely and popular dancer. So I kind of hung back and rested my knee. Occasionally I drank water using a hand that shook to a moderate degree, which is something I’m led to believe I’ll be able to enjoy for many years into the future.

After the dance, we and our friends ate dinner at Chili’s. We chose it for its menu, which provides nearly everyone something they’d like to eat. That really is genius, you know. No wonder the place is always full. I ordered grilled salmon, which was charming and surprising. I’d have expected good grilled salmon at Chili’s just as much as I’d have expected good Beef Wellington at Taco Bell. Just goes to show you. After dinner we went back our house, which was close by. We all sat on the floor in our only room that has no furniture at all, and we played with cats and looked at art books for a while. Two of our friends intended to go back to contra dance for the second three-hour session, which proves that they are tougher men than me. My wife planned to stay home and work a while, so I weaseled another of my friends into going on a mission with me once we dropped the others off.

On the trip back to the Palace of Contra Dance Pain, I called my mom, who is in a rehab hospital. I’d missed visiting her that day  and called to see how she was. She broke her 75 year old femur a month ago, and I’ve been trying pretty hard to help her rehabilitate. Unfortunately, she’s done almost nothing to help herself and thinks that as soon as she gets her cast off everything will be peachy. In the meantime she enjoys whining, groaning, laying in the bed, and looking pathetic. Honestly, she is worse than any 3 year old I have ever seen. I fully believe that she’ll never get out of the bed again and will be dead of pneumonia by Christmas (or shortly thereafter, since people often hang on until after Christmas).

After dropping off our other friends, I revealed the nature of our mission to the friend who was ferrying me around. This was a booze quest. More specifically, this was a quest for the ingredients to make fuzzy navels and pomegranate martinis. The former were for my wife and our friend, and the latter was for myself. I’d had such martinis in restaurant, liked them a whole lot, and wanted to know how to make them myself. I figured it was important to have the ability to make myself these drinks since the majority of my family members are alcoholics. We hit the grocery store for staples such as lemons and pomegranate juice. We laughed a lot about stuff that was really in no way funny. However, I was crestfallen to find that Kroger doesn’t carry a wide selection of pomegranate juice. In fact, they don’t carry any of that shit. They do carry a pomegranate/blueberry juice blend, with some other juices like apple and mango thrown in. My friend was for going to Central Market, but I figured, what the hell, my palate isn’t that sophisticated anyway.

We next hit the liquor store, looking for citrus vodka and peach schnapps. We looked for the cheapest damn liquor we could find, on the shared theory that all of our palates lacked sophistication. There were a few drunks in the store, virtually crawling on the floor to find the cheapest booze on the bottom shelves. I laughed a lot and fit right in, until I realized that my laughter was a little hysterical. I toned it down. We carried our goods to check out, and on the way I picked up shakers that both of us were nearly certain would be ineffective for any task we might ever have. The store closed up about the time we left, which astounded us since it was only 9:00 p.m.

Back at home my wife was wrapping up her work. She organized all her stuff for the next day, since she is the most organized person I have ever met or even heard of. Without her, my life would look like a stagnant bayou floating through variable gravity. My friend watched the digital picture frame in our kitchen, the one I finally set up in July after giving it to my wife for Christmas. Meanwhile, I began mixing drinks. That required an iPhone to reference the measures of ingredients, a knife and cutting board, several measuring spoons, a lemon, an iPad for generally browsing the web to locate miscellaneous information, several bottles of alcohol and juice, a steel chopstick for mixing, glasses, ice, and two useless shakers. As I attacked the drinks, my wife came in to converse with us. This was awkward since I have trouble thinking and talking at the same time. I sort of withdrew from the conversation and didn’t laugh hysterically anymore, which was kind of a relief.

I started with the fuzzy navels. I required about five minutes to make them, which was embarrassing since it turns out they’re easier to make than a glass of Alka-Seltzer. After delivering the fuzzy navels, I started on the pomegranate martini. It had just four ingredients, but it seemed more difficult to mix than a voodoo death potion, including chicken eyeballs. Finally I held half a glass of oddly lavender martini, which tasted pretty damn good to me, although when my wife tasted it she shook her head as if a bug had flown up her nose. Well, it was a bit strong, and I might cut back on the vodka a little when I make it again.

We sat around the dining table and talked for an hour or so. Mainly my wife and our friend talked. I’m a little slow on the trigger in casual conversation, so I didn’t find too many openings I could jump into. Occasionally I said stuff that made sense, but mainly whatever I’d been thinking had been rendered obsolete by the time a large enough break in the action came along for me to slip in. My thinking wandered away now and then, and I nursed my martini. It was nice to hear my wife talk so excitedly. She likes to converse when everyone talks on top of one another, and I was trained that if you did that then bad things would happen to you. Sometimes I don’t make such an energetic conversationalist for her.

After midnight we decided we’d had the required amount of fun, and our friend began packing up her crap. My wife noticed that one of our cats, not the ass-typing cat, was laying around lethargic for the second day in a row. This sucked because she has an enlarged heart, and for a couple of years the vet has told us she might throw a clot and keel over any minute. A couple of months ago the vet examined her and proclaimed her a miracle cat, with a moderately repaired heart. Why did it repair itself? No one has any god damn idea. But since we thought her death sentence had been lifted, this laying around like she was half-dead was concerning. We talked it over and decided to hold off on a trip to the emergency vet until the next morning, just to see if she got any better in the night.

Our friend left with hugs all around. I wandered to the bathroom to slam down my pills that would fly like pin balls through my brain for the rest of the night. I tucked my wife into bed and hung out in the living room for a bit, communing with the ass-typing cat and her friend the whipping-his-tail-into-your-eye cat. I sat a while in the recliner with my laptop, and before I crept to bed I contemplated a foolish Facebook post in which I mentioned the great job I’d done at work the day before, just in case any of my friends wanted to put the watercolor up on their refrigerator.

Miracle Cat
Ass-Typing Cat
Whipping-His-Tail-Into-Your-Eye Cat

My wife had an enormous hole jack-hammered into her jaw yesterday. Her dentist implanted a post, on which a crown will later be placed. The procedure’s a bit pricey, but compared to what she’s worth, the cost is 1 divided by infinity.

The dentist numbed the area with a bucket-full of Lidocaine. My wife is one of the happy few whose mouth resists anesthetic. So by the time she was ready for the procedure, she was deadened from her esophagus to the back of her skull. Then they opened her jaw like she was an anaconda and worked on her with the world’s tiniest hammer-drill. For the final step they jammed a shiny silver post into the hole. It reminded me of the spike driven at the meeting of the transcontinental railroad.

The nurse brought her to me in a wheelchair. She needed it. The dentist had wanted to protect my wife from anxiety, so he’d prescribed Ativan for her to take before the procedure. One of my friends took this drug for anxiety a while back. The dentist gave my wife eight times as much as that fellow took, so she was unable to walk. However, she was able to stumble from the wheelchair into the passenger seat of our car. On the drive home she chatted with Buddha and the Tooth Fairy about what a bitch Glenda the Good really is.

We arrived home. As I guided my sweetie into the house she mumbled about needing to clean the litter boxes and wash clothes, as soon as she sits down for a few minutes. I told her it’s all taken care of, and that she’ll probably sleep the rest of the day. She then drifted into the kitchen, where she sagged against various kitchen counters and prepared her ibuprofen, her antibiotics, some tea, and other necessities, while I hovered, trying to aim her at a chair and making sure she didn’t put rat poison in her tea.

At last she sat enfolded in her favorite recliner, which we call “The Womb.” She had a small table beside her holding tea, water, ibuprofen, and an icepack. On the other side sat tissues, two TV remote controls, and an iPad. Two cats drowsed across her legs and tummy. I crept off to let her sleep. She called me back, wanting to know how long she should leave on the icepack, how long she should leave it off before putting it on again, and what time she could stop using the thing altogether. I answered her questions and resumed my creeping.

Over the next few hours, when I checked she was sometimes asleep and sometimes not. The TV played programs occasionally interesting enough for her to look at. I brought her some yogurt, which was good exercise since she had to repel a cat attempting to seize it. Evening found her vertical and in the kitchen, stable on her feet, and talking about food.

“I don’t know why I’m so tired,” she said with perfect sincerity.

“You went through a lot today. And you had a lot of Ativan.”

As she selected a tomato she did not reply, and she gave no sign that she accepted my hypothesis.

I tried again. “It’ll probably take a little while to recover. They carved a big hole in your head.”

She didn’t look up from slicing her tomato. “When I had my tooth pulled I didn’t feel like this.”

“Well, this was a different procedure. This was probably harder on you.”

She didn’t respond.

I considered reiterating that she’d swallowed enough Ativan to kill a pony. But I realized that my arguments meant nothing stacked against her determination to press on and function, even if wild dogs were chewing off her leg. She’s a rock. You can drill a big hole in a rock, and it just keeps rolling.

So, instead I kissed her head on the side away from the new hole. “I imagine you’ll feel better soon.”

She flipped me a smile that was a bit pained on the left side. “Thanks for doing the kitty litter.”

When I walk away and leave cheese-encrusted dishes in the sink, I know that it’s wrong. If I were a puppy, my ears would droop and I’d crawl under the couch. But since I’m not a puppy, I pretend it’s a simple oversight, and that my wife and I will forget all about it as soon as we sit down to watch TV. I pretend that all of this is true, but in fact I have done nothing less than given up the moral high ground.

By “moral high ground,” I don’t refer to big moral questions. I don’t mean whether I want to raise or lower taxes, whether or not I eat meat, or whether I advocate school prayer. (In fact, I prayed in school, but they were desperate prayers that I not get caught, so I don’t think that counts.) Instead, I mean the fragile yet devastating balance of moral superiority between two people who are intimate and feel that killing one another would be inappropriate.

Here’s an example of moral high ground. Say I’m working late, and afterwards my coworkers and I decide to get dinner. We spend an hour in a mediocre chain restaurant. I eat a Mesquite Chicken Platter with coleslaw, and I drink two beers. We hang out for another hour bitching about our customers, drinking more beer and eating stale dinner rolls. Then I drive home, walk in the door, and realize several things. I did not call my wife to assure her I hadn’t been killed in a Russian mafia carjacking. I did not stop at the cleaners or the drug store on my way home. And I did not bring her a chocolate lava cake.

I have just surrendered the moral high ground. I am wallowing through the mud of my bad behavior, enabling her to lob missiles of righteousness down upon me if she wants to.

Losing the moral high ground is easy. At least it’s easy for me, because I’m a dumbass. Taking the moral high ground is difficult because everyone starts off on top of Morality Hill. If your partner doesn’t tumble down the hill by himself, you must achieve moral superiority by kicking your partner down the hill when he isn’t looking. Once you’ve lost the high ground, it’s nearly impossible to take it back without help. And by help, I mean that your partner refrains from rolling any boulders down the hill at you while you climb up.

Now, let’s jump to the Saturday morning after my chocolate lava cake failure. I suggest that we go to the museum, since I figure my wife might like that better than watching more reruns of “The Unit.” As we drive up the tollway, physically we’re sitting together in cozy proximity. Morally, she looms above me like Zeus. She says, with perfect good will, “Hey, let’s go to the craft fair.”

I’d rather eat a scorpion than go to the craft fair, I think. But what I say is, “Sure, that sounds good.” I am so far down the side of Morality Hill that I would agree to go to a barbecued baby cookout, and I’d bring lemonade.

“Well, if you don’t want to go…” my wife says.

“I want to go!” I fling her my most sincere fake smile. Is she just messing with me?

“We’ll just stay an hour or so. They have really cute puppies.”

We don’t need a puppy! Does she want a puppy? She didn’t exactly say that… “I’d like to see the puppies,” I say. Because I’m such a moral invertebrate right now, I don’t feel I can entrench myself in a strong anti-puppy position. But I do examine the rear view mirror more than necessary and avoid further comments.

By afternoon I have trudged through the craft fair, visited the museum, and returned home puppy-less. We own some red ceramic roosters that may cause me to blind myself someday rather than look upon them, and I’m cleaning cat vomit off my pillow. I feel that my wife has allowed me to climb most of the way back up to the moral high ground, and I reek of gratitude.

The balance of moral superiority is delicate, but its power is undeniable. I’m hoping that my wife backs the car into the garage door soon. I’ve had my eye on a flat screen TV.