Light Infantry

Dearest Rachel –

You would think that I would learn to check what can be done before stating categorically that it can’t. It’s how I avoided conflict with you for the longest time; you would think I would know to do likewise with Daniel.

You would be wrong.

There are certain aspects of the remodeling process that he takes issue with. The lights are a particular bone of contention. None of this should surprise you; he has always been fascinated by light fixtures, and the ‘lights should point attention elsewhere, not draw attention to themselves’ mentality of the electrical team runs absolutely counter to this philosophy of his. He focuses on the beauty of the light fixtures, while the team is concerned with their functionality over their form. Worse yet, I happen to like the utilitarian nature of the proposed setup, while he has stated flat out that he doesn’t.

He tells me that the lights in the kitchen remind him of Sunrise Day Camp, which is drawing an absolute blank with me. I don’t know where and when that was a part of the timeline between you and I, so I don’t know how to address that. I do kind of understand his take that they look more professional – like a place of business – than homey, but I think that seems reasonable for the particular rooms being remodeled. These aren’t really going to be places where we will be hanging out; this is for getting things done – be it cooking or cleaning. It isn’t as if he spends -or has spent – much time in either of these rooms, after all, so why should it bother him so much?

And yet, it does. I wish I could guarantee to him that he’ll get accustomed to it; that as time goes by, he’ll see the look of the place as being ‘home’ the longer he lives with it. But I suspect that he considers it a change that’s almost (if not quite – there are a number of changes that needed to be made, like the broken oven, the blocked cabinet, and so forth) as unwelcome as your absence. Every change is a step back from what used to be ‘good’ in his opinion, and the fact that there’s no going back there doesn’t mitigate this fact in the slightest. Like you, he wants what he wants – and what he really wants, or rather, wanted – was for everything to stay the same.

This morning, things came to a head regarding what he refers to as the ‘flush lights’; a trio of light fixtures affixed flush against the ceiling in the pantry, between the master bedroom and bath, and in the laundry room.

The latter two are pictured above – and I do mean ‘above.’

To be sure, his attachment to these fixtures is understandable, as he had purchased them himself once upon a time (although I don’t remember if it was from allowance or gift money – you would know, but I’ve long since forgotten. Perhaps Ellen might recall). He tells me that he holds a particular fascination with the swirl patterns in the glass casing of these lights. Now, I had informed the team that because of this, we wanted to keep the lights themselves, but I was of the understanding that they would have to be taken down, like the art deco ceiling lamp that hung over the table in the kitchen.

You can see from the plan of the laundry room it would be replaced by a collection of flat wafer-style LED lights throughout the room, with a few puck lights until the cabinets as task lights, and a couple of motion sensitive light fixtures in the closet.

This did not sit well with him, and he let me know about it.

But what was I supposed to do? The rooms are already being changed, and there is no place for these old lights anymore. You can keep them, son, and put them somewhere else some day, but not here. Or do I have to send the team home, and just stop this whole remodeling project because we’re not allowed to change?

At some point, Tom (the Electrician) spoke up.

“You know, we didn’t have any plans to take down this one,” indicating the light in between the master bedroom and bath, “or in the pantry. And really, this blueprint isn’t a hard-and-fast rule; if you want to leave that light up in the laundry, we can do that, and assemble the other lights around it.” According to him, while we needed a certain number of lights in order to bring the room up to code, there was no reason one of them couldn’t be the light that Daniel had already purchased and had us install. It might have to be taken down temporarily to ensure that the wiring was up to code, but that need be the extent of it.

I did not realize this, and I had been telling Daniel how they had to be removed. And as a result, we were yelling at each other like infants over something that could be resolved with everybody reasonably happy.

I wonder if you would have been amused to see how little I’ve learned over the years.

After explaining Tom’s proposal to Daniel – and verifying that all three lights would be staying on the ceiling, which met with his approval – I confirmed what we wanted to do to Tom, and offered my thanks for finding a middle path that could please us both (although quite honestly, I’m not about to die on any particular hill with regard to the remodeling. I just want to pick out the components and get on with the project). I wouldn’t say he brushed my thanks off, but he made it quite clear that this was not an uncommon situation (save for the fact that it was between a father and son, and opposite to the more customary husband-and-wife conflict).

In fact – and this was particularly amusing in retrospect – he’d tuned out most of the yelling because by then, he was already working out in his head how best to accommodate each of us. And after forty years of dealing with customer issues like ours, we weren’t done arguing before he had a solution to lay out to me, and for me to relay to Daniel. That’s a talent I wish I had.

So, at least we have a plan going forward. Hopefully, between the ceiling fan in the kitchen and the flush lights staying up, Daniel has been reasonably mollified (and if he’s not keen on the wafer lights in the kitchen – or even the laundry room – he doesn’t have to spend a lot of time in either room, or if he does, he doesn’t have to turn those particular lights on, as they’ll be on a separate switch), and everything is reasonably settled going forward.

Still, I think I would still appreciate it if you could wish us luck, honey. We’re still gonna need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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