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.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Red Tulips

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.


  1. DONMs so badly want someone to take care of them that they skip from one toxic person to another. Each making use of her sensitivity and goodness, subjecting them to sadistic physical abuse, I am speechless at this incident. Neglecting a medical ailment in children is the last thing any parent should do, when a parent does that on account of monetary concerns or sheer laziness the person is bound to be a toxic psychopath. I do hope your current life is both peaceful and prosperous. But do let me know how you got out of this bathos of hell to a decent life. From what you have told me you were an academically brilliant person. You have faced exactly what i did. My GRE scores were on the 95% and was a topper every year in college, my professors used to laud me as a potential nobel laureate. Though i had the potential what i did not have was the guidance or money for my graduate educaiton. My mother though having tons of cash, refused to fund me stating that she was a pauper and retired.... When i told her to atleast finance my educaiton in a local busines school, she bluntly refused. My education was totally ruined like yours.

    1. I became a classic underachiever. After ten years as a nightclub dancer and cocktail waitress, I applied to the state for the funds to go to secretarial college and it was granted. I ultimately became an executive secretary, earning a wage sufficient to cling to the bottom rung of the middle class ladder, but nothing even approaching my potential.

      My mother and her husband owned 3 hourse and 21 flats. They could easily have financed a university education for me. But my mother believed her responsibility for me ended when I turned 18 and after that, she would be able to wash her hands of me. There was no university in my future, despite my high grades and scores because NM refused.

  2. This one made me cry I think that's appropriate brought back some things. Its a lot like opening a box for me right now. Thank you for doing this.

  3. The very same thing was done to me. NM forced me into a teenage marriage to an alcoholic. She then stole all funds for my college education. She was and is a miserable bitch.

  4. I typed this out and apparently it's too long to fit in one comment - so if it's all right with you, I'm breaking it up into two parts.

    This one has me tearing up, and memories coming fast and hard. Not of my own childhood this time, like most of the memories triggered by your writing, but of my adult life and the narc father of my children.

    I had finally made the decision to leave him while I was in my third trimester with my youngest. But the pregnancy had been hard, coming right behind having my second child via c-section (indeed, as it turned out, my second and third children are only 11 months apart). I knew I would not be strong enough, physically, to leave until after I'd recovered from the birth. I began hiding money in my box of pads in the bathroom, and making quiet plans to leave.

    Had my c-section, had my baby. Had complications when my c-section incision tore open (due to narc ex refusing to allow me actual rest and recovery in the days following the procedure). But finally, six weeks after the birth, I was ready. I made plans with a woman's shelter to leave on Monday after he went to work.

    But on Friday, I came home and changed my baby's diaper, and realized something was wrong. I'm not a dumb woman, despite what my ex tried to make me believe. I'd read medical journals for fun and recognized the faint signs of a testicular hernia.

    I demanded that he take us to the hospital, to the ER. He fought it but eventually conceded after I threatened to call 911. We got to the ER and were put in a room - it wasn't busy at that moment, we could have been seen right away. But my ex pulled the admitting doctor into the hallway outside our room, and said, with a sigh of long-suffering patience, "She's a new mother and a bit of a hypochondriac to boot. I looked at the boy's privates myself and there was absolutely nothing wrong with him. Take your time, there's no rush - she's just freaking out."

    I saw the young doctor smirk and give him a "woman are all crazy" look of male solidarity. I was fuming, so angry I couldn't speak, and when my ability to talk returned to me a few seconds later, the doctor had left.

    So we waited. And waited. My ex looking at me pacing and smirking. Every so often making comments about how this kind of overreaction to nothing was going to make me look bad, and maybe was illegal to boot. Two and a half hours went by like this.

    Finally two men came in - the admitting doctor, with a wink at my ex, and an older distinguished doctor with a kind look in his eye. The older doctor took off my son's diaper and I saw both my ex's face and the admitting doctor's face blanch.

    My son's slightly, subtly swollen testicle was now three times its normal size and a vivid, horrifying shade of purple-blue.

  5. Part 2:

    The older doctor prodded around the area and then said, with sadness, "If you had gotten here just two hours earlier, I could have fixed this without surgery. But now he's going to have to go up to the surgical floor for an emergency surgery."

    That was the last straw on my emotions. I was still dealing with the hormonal effects of two back-to-back pregnancies and c-sections, and the strain of living in an abusive relationship and the stress of plotting secretly to escape. And I was also harboring a secret guilt, that I hadn't bonded yet with this baby - the stress I was under just didn't allow that to form yet - and I was thinking "oh god, I'm a horrible mother, he might DIE and I haven't bonded with him." And I just snapped. I started yelling that we'd been there more than two hours ago, that those two (with accusing fingers pointed at the admitting doctor and my ex) had intentionally dallied on getting him medical attention. And I started bawling, unable to catch my breath, trying to hold my baby and keep him away from my ex and that damned admitting doctor.

    Next thing I knew, there was a stinging sensation in my arm - they'd administered a calming medication as I was growing quite hysterical - and a nurse with a gentle face had pried my infant out of my arms and whisked him away. I felt weak, and the room spun, and I still fought off the medication I'd been given, demanding to know where my son was, what as going to be done to him, who was going to operate and how many years of experience did that surgeon have? And finally after all the forms were signed and my son was in the operating room, I sat down to wait - and promptly passed out, falling out of my chair and breaking my glasses.

    I woke hours later, on a waiting room couch with my head cushioned on my mother's lap and with my father - my birth father, not my narc stepfather - pacing back and forth mumbling to himself. Occasionally I could make out cuss words aimed at my ex.

    Turns out he had laughed when I fell into my faint. Since a security guard had been asked to keep an eye on us after my outburst, this was observed and caught the suspicions of the guard. He called his boss and suggested that there was more going on here than meets the eye, and asked to have my emergency contact called.

    When my mother arrived, I was still unconscious on the floor ("oh, leave her there, she'll wake up eventually" being my ex's statement) and from all accounts, she flew into a glorious rage. Her actions and the testimony of the kindly older ER doctor got him banned from the hospital while our son was a patient there.

    The last and brightest memory I have of this was how it ended, sitting at my baby's bedside. And he woke up - this crying, surly baby who had been so miserable his first six weeks - and the furrows on his brow that I hadn't realized were pain furrows had eased away. And he saw me, and he smiled his first smile at me, and SNAP - the bond formed, instant and unmistakable.

    I waited two more weeks to leave, so my son could recover from his own surgery. And I never went back.


I don't publish rudeness, so please keep your comments respectful, not only to me, but to those who comment as well. We are not all at the same point in our recovery.

Not clear on what constitutes "rudeness"? You can read this blog post for clarification: