It was cold, so she put Jakie down for his nap in the warmest place in the house…in his carriage in front of the oil log. Annie was dressed in several layers of clothing and sitting on a blanket on the drafty floor, playing with her new doll, the only birthday present she had received. Rod, wrapped up in a blanket, was curled up on the sofa watching TV. She snorted quietly…they couldn’t afford a telephone or a warm place to live but he managed to find a way to afford a TV…and his damned brandy. He should have been at work…it was Tuesday…but he had called in sick one time too many and so now he was “between jobs” again…she barely had money for milk for the kids, but he somehow managed to find enough for a bottle for himself. Selfish bastard.
It was only two o’clock and already freezing. March heralded the beginning of spring back in California…but here, in the armpit of New England, the countryside was still in the frozen grip of a bitter winter. She looked out the uninsulated kitchen window at the snow flurries and felt the flimsy, ancient clapboard structure shudder with the gusting winds that forced frigid air through the millions of little holes in their flat. This thin wall of decaying wood was all that stood between them and the promised storm…an unseasonable blizzard, according to the weather forecast. She went into the bathroom…a lean-to added to the back porch, as the building had been put up long before indoor toilets were commonplace, and the bathroom had been added later…and turned the tap on to a trickle in the sink and tub. She had yet to figure out how to keep the water in the toilet from freezing, but keeping the water running in the tub and sink kept those pipes from bursting.
Back in the kitchen she stirred the pot of sauce. Dishes that had to cook all day kept the kitchen warm and it was where she put the kids down to sleep at night, for the only heat in the miserable little shotgun flat came from the oil log in the kitchen stove…provided, of course, Rod could be prevailed upon to hike down to the cellar, fill up the oil bottles, and hike back up to the third floor carrying them. So far she had managed to avoid going down into that terrifying black, cobweb-festooned pit, but she feared that eventually she would have no alternative…Rod would go out for milk one evening when the last bottle of oil was low, stop off at the tavern for a “quick one” that wouldn’t end until closing time, and she’d have to brave the pit or freeze---quite literally.
If he would let her go to the grocery store and stock up…but that wasn’t going to happen. He had nearly had a coronary when he came home one afternoon and found her and the kids in Flo’s apartment across the hall. The apartment doors were open, there were no males over the age of nine about, and still he had grabbed her by the hair and dragged her across the hallway and slapped and punched her until she was black and blue all over. She burned for the day she could find enough money to get out. Her shoulders drooped…she was not allowed outside the apartment without him, and she never had any money…she was stuck. For now. But things would change, she knew this.
The afternoon wore on slowly, the noises from the TV not quite drowning out the sounds of despair in her head. She washed diapers in the kitchen sink and strung them on lines in the kitchen to dry…they would only freeze solid outside…and at four she realized that Jakie, an energetic little boy for all his five months, had not awakened from his nap. She checked the carriage, saw he was still asleep, and reached in to adjust his blanket. The backs of her fingers brushed his cheek and she drew back in alarm…he was burning up!
She ran to the front door, shouting “Jakie’s sick!” over her shoulder to Rod as an explanation, and pounded on Flo’s door. A moment later, thermometer in hand, she lifted the unresisting infant from his carriage and pulled down his diaper to take his temperature. Impatient, she watched the silver line of mercury shoot up like a rocket. When it reached 103, she snatched it out, placed it on the table and turned the limp infant on his back. “Jakie!” she said urgently, patting his cheek briskly. “Jakie, honey, wake up! Look at Mama!”
He lay limply in her arms, the most she was able to elicit from him was a weak whimper and a rolling of his eyes under the lids. She put him back in his carriage and rushed to the living room where Rod remained transfixed by the TV. “Jakie’s sick, we need to go to the hospital!” she cried. “Get the car started, I’ll take Annie to Flo’s!”
Rod did not move. “Rod, for God’s sake, Jakie is really sick! Please go warm up the car!” He looked up at her with grave disdain. “Jesus Christ, you panic over every little sniffle. It’s probably just a cold…he’ll be fine.” He turned his eyes back to the television.
Stunned, she stood for a moment trying to decide what to do. If she asked Flo’s husband to drive her to the hospital, Rod would beat her stupid when she got home and accuse her of every vile act under the sun in the bargain. But if she didn’t take Jakie to the hospital, who knew what would happen? He was almost unconscious!
“I’m calling the police, then,” she said. “They will take us to the hospital.” She snatched open the door and started across the hall to use Flo’s phone and he rocketed off the sofa and grabbed her arm, dragging her back inside. “Like hell you will!” he yelled, aiming a sharp slap for the side of her face. “Get your ass back in that kitchen where you belong!”
She began to scream. “The baby is sick! Sick! I tell you! He won’t wake up! He’s going to die if we don’t get him to a hospital!”
"Die, my ass!" Rod was yelling as Flo’s door opened and her husband, the big, burly Ken, stuck his head out. As the devoted father of four sturdy young sons, he was less than amused at what he had overheard. “Wrap the kid up good,” Ken said, looking past Rod as if he wasn’t there. “I’ll be downstairs warming up the car. Flo, get my jacket.”
“Like hell you will!” Rod shouted, placing his hand on Ken’s chest and giving him a sharp push back into his apartment. “I’ll take care of my own kid and I don’t need no help from some ignorant fucking Polack!”
“Then stop standing around flapping your lips, you stupid guinea asshole, and get the kid to the hospital before he dies!” Ken shouted back.
Quietly, in the background, Flo said “Send Annie over. I’ll watch her until you get back.” She nodded and went inside to get the kids ready.
While Rod tried to find a parking place in the snowbound parking lot, she hurried the baby in to the triage desk. “I put him down for a nap at two,” she said urgently to the bored-looking nurse. “Now I can’t wake him up! All he does is whimper a little and sort of moan…” her face was a study in anguish as the nurse peered into the bunting in her arms and found a deathly pale, unnaturally still baby. Without warning, the nurse snatched Jakie from her arms and hurried down a corridor, calling out commands as she strode purposefully to an examining room.
The next half hour was a blur. Doctors and nurses crowded around her baby, poking him with needles, drawing blood, urine, even spinal fluid samples. At the end of it all she was left with a limp, almost lifeless infant in her arms, only lightly swaddled due to his fever. Finally, a tall, slender blond man approached her, his manner alarmingly calm. “Your baby is very sick, Mrs. Martinelli. He has spinal meningitis and we have to get him to Children’s Hospital in Boston right away. We don’t have the means to treat him properly here.”
Bewildered, she could feel herself start to cry. “It’s dark outside…I have no idea where this place is…I don’t think we can find it in the dark…can we take him in the morning? I don’t want to be driving all around Boston, lost, with a sick baby in the car…with all the snow...” Tears were flooding down her cheeks, her hands knotted with anxiety.
The doctor sat down beside her and placed a hand gently on her shoulder. “Mrs. Martinelli, your son has spinal meningitis and he may well die before morning if he doesn’t receive immediate treatment at a proper facility. We’ve called the police to provide you with emergency transport to Children’s. It’s the only chance he’s got.”
The ride to the hospital was a nightmare. The backseat of the patrol car was not constructed for comfort, and she was shivering in the frigid temperatures, sliding around the slick, cold upholstery in the back seat. What would normally be a twenty minute drive took more than an hour as they battled the worst March blizzard in memory, driving directly into the brunt of the storm. Jakie became terrifyingly still and limp, only his slight breath and the feverish waves of heat radiating from his tiny body indicating that he was still alive.
She was completely lost. She had tried to take note of their route, but it was dark and between the snow blowing into their windshield and the headlights from oncoming traffic, she had no idea where they were. Snow had built up alarmingly in the roadway, especially at corners, despite the efforts of the slow-moving snowploughs that lumbered through the darkness, their emergency lights furiously rotating like yellow beacons of hope. The flying snow virtually occluded vision, but the police officer did not falter and, to her great surprise, they pulled up to the emergency entrance to the hospital in once piece.
The snow, however, was so deep she could not get the car door open! The officer got on his radio and in a matter of a few minutes, two white coated people ran out the ER doors, waded through the snow drifts to the side of the car and took Jakie through the window. The tears nearly froze on her cold face as she watched them disappear back through the doors with her child.
“OK, ma’am,” the officer said, turning to look at her over his thickly padded blue shoulder. “Let’s find a place where we can get the door open for you.” She nodded silently.
It took her fifteen minutes to make her way to the emergency room through the back corridors of the hospital. And when she got there, Jakie was gone. She found his bunting, his little shirt, the tiny blue booties she had knit herself, but he was nowhere to be found. She wandered about the quiet, empty hallway, peeking in examining rooms hoping to find him, his little clothes clutched in her numb fingers, panic growing inside her like a live thing. What had they done with her baby?
She turned a corner and found a desk that was staffed by a woman in starched white, an outlandish little pouf of pleated organdy and black velvet ribbon perched precariously on top of her head. A pin on her well-concealed bosom identified her as an RN. The nurse looked up, over the tops of her ridiculous little half-glasses, raised one steel-grey eyebrow and frowned. “May I help you?” she inquired in a cool, professional voice. “We don’t allow people to wander about the emergency suite unaccompanied,” she said disapprovingly.
Clutching Jakie’s clothes tightly to help keep her from crying, she shook her head. “I’m looking for my baby,” she thrust out the clothes in her hands. “These are his…we came in a police car and two people came and took him through the window…now I can’t find him…” She was rapidly losing the battle against tears and she was starting to feel a bit light-headed…she hadn’t eaten since noon.
Recognizing the symptoms, the nurse got up from the chair and came around to her. “Sit down, please. Take some deep breaths…put your head between your knees if you are feeling faint…let me see what I can find out for you.”
She leaned back in the stiff chair and put her head against the wall, eyes tightly closed and fingers still clutching Jakie’s things. God, where was he? She refused to allow herself to think about his condition…she would wait until she could speak with a doctor.
“Mrs. Martinelli?” the voice of a young male was calling her. She opened her eyes and saw him approaching. “Is that your baby? Rodney Jacob Martinelli, Jr.?”
She nodded. “We call him Jakie,” she whispered. “Please,” she said, her voice gaining strength. “Where is he? Is he going to be OK?”
The young man, the badge on his white coat said “Dr. Michael Warren,” shook his head. “He’s very, very sick. He’s presently in intensive care…” she stood up, ready to rush to her baby’s side, “…and there are no visitors allowed.” She felt as if she had been struck by lightning, shocked and stunned, and she stared at the doctor incredulously. “It interferes with monitoring and treatment, to have parents always hovering around and fretting, distracting or interfering with the staff. You are allowed one ten minute visit at 8 pm every evening as long as he is in ICU.”
She stood, steadying herself on the wall. “How long will that be?”
The doctor was very silent for a very long time. Finally he sighed. “I’m not going to lie to you, Mrs. Martinelli…Jakie is a very sick little boy. If you hadn’t gotten him to the hospital in your hometown when you did, he would be dead by now.” She gasped, her hand going over her mouth. “But he’s very critical…we don’t know if he is strong enough to make it through this…spinal meningitis is often fatal in babies this young.”
“Fatal?” she felt like she had fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole. Could things get any worse?
“I’ve already called a priest and he’s been given Last Rites…”
“Last Rites?” she felt her throat closing up.
“Go home, Mrs. Martinelli. Go home and get some rest. And pray.”
For the first time she noticed there was another person standing behind Dr. Warren, an equally young man wearing an equally doctorish long white coat, but sporting long, hippyish hair. He was tugging on Dr. Warren’s sleeve urgently. The two men held a hurried, whispered consultation then Dr. Warren turned to her. “Excuse me, but I have to get back to the ICU urgently.” He turned on his heel and hurried away.
The other man, however, lingered a moment, looking her over in a wholly inappropriate way. She averted her face and her gaze. “Martinelli, right? The kid with meningitis?”
She looked back and nodded, her face a study in anxiety.
He looked her up and down appraisingly, then jerked his head in the direction in which Dr. Warren had disappeared. “Mikey worries too much about bedside manner...and he sometimes ends up giving false hope. If that was my kid, when I got home and got done with my prayers, I’d call my friendly neighbourhood funeral director. ’Cause come morning, lady, you’re gonna need him.”
She didn’t remember how she got home or when. Rod was gone when she woke up in their freezing bedroom, and she lay on the bed for a few moments, trying to orient herself. Jakie! It came flooding back to her. Jakie!
She shoved her feet into her shoes…she had slept in her clothes…and rushed to Flo’s front door. “I need to use the phone,” she pleaded. “I have to call about Jakie…”
“Relax,” Flo said, pressing a cup of hot tea in her hand. “I called about ten minutes ago. That boy of yours is a real fighter!” She looked up at Flo hopefully.
“Oh, he’s still real sick,” Flo cautioned her, “He’s still unconscious. But he made it through the night…and that’s a real significant achievement, they told me.”
She sipped her tea, relief flooding over her. “Thanks, Flo,” she breathed, her cup and saucer rattling with the trembling of her hands. “I was afraid I was going to have to call a funeral home this morning.”
“Nah!” Flo said, in that joshing way of hers. “Just give the kid some time and he’ll be back home before you know it!”
She bought a pot of huge red tulips and put them beside his crib. It had been more than a week and he still had not opened his eyes, but he was out of ICU. She spent half an hour talking to him, holding his tiny hand, stroking his peach-like little cheek with the back of her fingers, and finally got up to make the two hour trek by bus and subway home. She didn’t see him open his eyes, but red tulips were the very first thing he saw.
It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.