For over one and a half year the situation with Marco was all right. He seemed to be more independent, nevertheless he was still linked to his new friends, his school difficulties persisted, but that did not worry me much, because going to school for Marco was a way to socialise and regain some balance, rather than to get good grades.
What was getting worse was my relationship with my wife. We were both very much involved in the situation, but since I was often away from home for professional reasons she had to bear most of the physical and psychological burden.
A love-hate relationship developed between the two of them and it often led to an almost complete inability to communicate. After trying so hard for years and years she was almost about to throw in the towel. On the other hand he carried on undaunted, making the same mistakes, showing an attitude as everything was due to him.
The gap between my behaviour and hers towards him kept widening, we were unable to find a satisfying and convincing compromise for both. We often had discussions which ended into arguments with mutual accusations of being insensitive on one hand and being too permissive on the other.
On day in November we had a surprise and a partial answer to our doubts and misunderstandings. It was about 6 am, it was drizzling and it was still dark, we were sleeping when the barking dogs and someone knocking at the door woke me up. I did not have the dimmest idea of who it might be, and still sleepy I went into the living room, opened the door and found Marco right there before me.
He had a sweater and pyjamas trousers, he was bare foot and soaking wet
Marco what happened?
With a weak voice he said: "I cut my wrists."
Then he stopped answering my questions, his gaze empty, he was shivering as he was cold, he had walked bare foot in the rain for over 8 km.
I almost carried him to the bathroom, the sweater sleeves were dirty with blood but luckily the wounds were not very deep. I wrapped his wrists with bandages and covered him with a blanket.
My wife was very upset, I told her to stay in bed, I did not want her to see him like that. I changed his clothes and took him to the emergency unit at the hospital.
On the way there he said he always saw a light that told him to cut his veins, oddly he was angry with Berlusconi, probably because on TV he was criticised at that time.
At the emergency room, after I filled out the admission forms he was hospitalised. I was told to come back to the mental hygiene department later that morning.
I was shocked and confused, and the first thing that crossed my mind was to go to his small apartment and see what happened.
When I got there, going up the stairs I noticed consisting blood trails. The door was open and obviously the doggie that lived with Marco was not there.
I went down to the courtyard and I found the doggie scampering off aimlessly. Going back upstairs I bumped into a lady, who politely asked what had happened, she was not too inquisitive though and told me not to worry that she would have taken care of cleaning up.
Going back home I had the clear impression that a very hard time was going to begin for me: an unknown environment was ahead of me and it made me feel anxious and frightened at the same time.
"So, what did they say at the hospital?"
Nothing specific, and they hospitalised Marco and told me to go back later in the morning.
"I have always told you that there was something that was not right in his irrational behaviour, but you always underestimated that, he’ll change, he’ll understand you said! And here we are now.
Well I think positive by nature and you always see negative, we clashed on this point before and yet we haven’t changed our views. However if it is a mental health problem our viewpoints are irrelevant at this stage, as we are both unable and unequipped to resolve it.
“Let’s not think of it right now, I am going to prepare a bag for the hospital, go to bed and rest a bit, you look exhausted and stop smoking, you lit up five cigarettes in twenty minutes.
I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep, but I’ll try.
At 12 noon we were at the hospital, we went to the mental hygiene department and a nurse took us to the doctor. We briefly told him about Marco, expressing both our viewpoints. The doctor thoroughly took notes and, after he had a word with his assistant, he told us that on the basis of a first assessment the situation was rather serious: paranoid schizophrenia with borderline behaviour symptoms were present.
He was room 9, we were told he was sedated and tied to his bed. In any case the wounds on the wrists were not deep and they could heal in a week.
I was a bit afraid when I stepped into his room. His eyes were half-closed, as soon as he saw me he sprang up on the bed, but he could not move, so he asked me to unfasten him and take him away from the hospital. When I told him it was impossible and he had to be treated he began to cry intensively. His eyes conveyed mixed feelings of hatred and supplication, and feeling lost he started to scream, his adult voice turned to a high-pitched tone, to the point that it impressively sounded like a two or three-year old child’s voice, as if he wanted to turn back time and start all over again.
I felt powerless, inadequate and swept off my feet also because of the man lying in the bed in front of us. He was also tied up and, with his indifferent and careless attitude, kept asking for a cigarette.
Eventually a nurse arrived and gave him an injection and after five minutes he calmed down and fell into a deep sleep.
My visits in hospital became more and more frequent. I was there so often that I almost know all patients. To tell you the truth when I saw them they ask me who I was, as they saw me for the first time and they were mainly interested in cigarettes.
Marco was slowly getting better, with ups and downs, anyhow he was unpredictable, he even managed to run away from the hospital climbing over the wire net surrounding the court yard they people go smoking.
I found him at his friends’ house, I do not know what he was looking for and what he was planning to do.
I persuaded him to go back, threatening him to call the police and I promised him he could leave the hospital as soon as possible.
The doctors of the dept. were quite concerned and they ask me to wait and discuss Marco’s issues.
I was tired and demoralised and I sat in the patients’ common room, where I saw a man who did not speak with anyone, I had seen him before, during my previous visits.
His neck muscles were abnormally developed, he kept moving his head 24/7, staring into the void, and day after day he marked the time like the hands of a clock ticking. He was not aware of his life. I was almost ashamed, I couldn’t help but thinking that the subject was before me was not a man, but a machine. I profoundly felt pity for him, but I could not tell him to comfort him. I could peep through the door left ajar and I saw doctors and nurses in white uniform and I thought of more serious situations and wondered if they were this man’s saviours or his torturers.
To what extent are we allowed to interfere with natural processes? To my eyes those innocent doctors were arrogantly challenging austere and inexorable Death, the one who comes with a scythe. When someone has no longer conscience, brain and I would dare soul, let’s this shiny lady come to relieve unimaginable suffering and restore dignity to someone who might have been a triumph of life once.
If you go to these places you are almost compelled to think about life and death and you realise that death is an integral part of life. Suddenly anguish and distress fade away almost naturally and you wonder whether it is right to welcome death either with pain and sorrow or with glee. Your approach and perspective unexpectedly change.
These people who, in an obtuse and violent way defend life which is not life anymore, up to extreme consequences, to the point of mortifying any idea of human dignity, they are the same people who refuse to use stem cell to save a conscious, thinking, desperate life that feels torments of unimaginable pain on its flesh every day. In addition to that life is denied the hope of healing. I am thinking of Luca Coscioni, an example of mind, soul with no body.
Someone with a flat electroencephalogram is compelled to live whilst someone else who is alive with lots of projects and hopes is sentenced to death. We could not imagine a more subtle and wicked culture of death.
It is the people who rage singing hymns to cells’ and embryos’ life. It seems to me that cells and embryos are a life project. The best thing to do is to use them to give life to an already existing life and allowing them to live as well.
In the name of life, death lovers prefer to literally throw down the drain extra embryos used in artificial insemination, rather than let scientific research use them and give hope to millions of people to heal or get relief from pain and suffering.
To strict moralists (political arbitrators’ style) Opus Dei members Supernumeraries and Numeraries, embryos and zygotes are considered people, with the same rights of a living and thinking person. Thus to interrupt a pregnancy at this stage or manipulates embryos equals to commit a murder.
In fact strict moralists talk about murder and eugenics (meant as breed selection in case someone decides to interrupt a pregnancy if the embryo is manifestly ill.
They consider, consistently with the mortification of flesh and cilice culture, the birth of a 100% disable child a God’s blessing. This is an unexpected opportunity to redeem themselves and to gain eternal life, provided that it is not their child.
In fact strict moralists do not marry, do not have children but they are always ready to console and comfort, at least once a year.
They do not even slightly think that this child’s parents will be compelled to live a life that is not life, for forty or fifty years, day after day, hour after hour, which is like a torture removing any human dignity.
Nature kills if it is necessary whether you like it or not and natural selection has always existed before and after birth. You can call it positive eugenics if you like it.
It is anyhow decent selection to apply the same framework for birth and death. Only humans are capable of forcing to life what it is not life.
Unfortunately for them God created man and God is infallible, He cannot make mistakes. According to the law of nature and therefore according to God’s law over 30% of embryos are discarded, selected or (as they say) murdered, without any human intervention whatsoever.
How can it be possible that God is so distracted to the point of creating a mechanism, which foresees applying His law, embryos’ murder?
Then in their opinion God is pro abortion and a murderer. As a layman I believed I learned the difference among animals, stones, trees and myself: I am capable of “thinking” whilst they are not.
I think, thus I am….a man; I do not think, thus I am….a cell and molecular aggregation which only aesthetically differs from my dog.
A thinking mind is the difference, the discriminating factor between human and animal life.
We kill and even eat animals without any moral or ethical scruples. I realise it is not easy to accept, but we are simply organic matter before being thinking individuals.
God did not foresee embryos’ life. Human life either is in that instant or it is not. His natural law discards ill or unsuitable embryos without arising moral or ethical prejudice.
We are bothered to acknowledge that we are just animals, minerals, plants and humans, but I am afraid this is the way it is.
This homocentric culture is arrogant and selfish, it lacks attention to non humans and it claims to replace Nature in its purpose to keep global balance, thus causing huge disasters.
The fact that we do not accept “others” will lead to an unconscious and instinctive destruction of animals, forests, environment and eventually to our destruction.
Three months passed by and a mental health professional was assigned to Marco, the doctors fulfilled their task and he was soon released. His conditions were not ideal, but it was pointless to keep him in hospital. We had to find an adequate facility for him, it took take time and the outcome was unpredictable
We were told that there were no facilities available in the surroundings and in the meantime Marco has to stay at home because he could not look after himself. This option was bringing further tension between us and the idea that Marco had to return home has already caused distress to my wife. She was already heavily tested up to the deepest depression.
She was literally frightened to be alone with him and given my type of work, it could often happen.
Despite our research we could not find an adequate facility for him. There is was in Turin, in which they specifically deal with borderline disorders but it was private and rather costly, I could not afford it and in addition to that it was far away.
Finally it was the day of Marco’s discharge from hospital, we did not find an acceptable solution, as objectively, there were too many irreconcilable factors. We had to split up, we decided that without anger, overwhelmed by a situation we could not deal with. I hope it will only be temporary. Alternatively my wife is likely to end up in hospital.
In fact Marco was still the same. As soon as he was told that he had to be treated in a Mental Health Centre (formerly a Mental Asylum) he severed all ties with his mental health professional, stubbornly demanding to return home without going the Mental Health Centre, ignoring his condition.
My wife was looking for an accommodation, and in the meantime, I moved into Marco’s apartment. I realise I was alone there with him to fight against his condition.
I do not blame social facilities, they do what they can with the means they have available and anyway there’s nothing certain and taken for granted in this field.
Being as stubbornly optimistic as a mule from Abruzzi, I wondered if what Marco wanted was, after all and despite all risks involved, the best solution. I was obviously fooling myself, but eventually there was some truth in that.
If I put myself in his shoes with the possibility of ending up in a Mental Health Centre, I would prefer to live a kind of pretend normal life among “so-called normal people.
How can you treat someone with a mental disorder placing him in a centre with people with the same problem?
Which kind of example could one possibly have in order to heal and change? If someone is not socially dangerous wouldn’t it be better to let him among people or lock him up in an adequate facility? These doubts were haunting me, obviously it would be easier to consider the problem sorted out, but I cannot, as I am convinced that living in a Mental Health Centre could be safer but there are far more benefits if Marco could have a seemingly normal life.
Therefore being almost reckless I decided to have him with me, I am aware I cannot control him all the time as I have to be away for work for two or three days, but at present I have no other option.
A few days later I moved into Marco’s apartment with him, as my wife was still waiting to find a place on her own.
Marco’s attitude was to refuse any relationship. I could only give him advice and comply with his decisions. One day, despite my disagreement, he decided to visit the therapeutic community in Civitavecchia, perhaps hoping to see his former friends and assistants
In his own confused way he was looking for a family, stubbornly he just did not see he already had one.
At the Community he thought he could be welcome with open arms, but he did not realise that it was impossible.
At midnight I got a phone call from the Police station at Tuscania because they found Marco in the street. In two hours’ drive I reached Tuscania.
I could imagine how he felt in his own logic: nobody wants me, not even my former friends. In fact he felt down and very confused. In addition to that he had to bear my sermon, to use an understatement.
Those days were far from easy for me, I was torn as I was compelled to choose between two important people I love whose relationship appeared to be irreconcilable. My wife was exhausted, she tried to raise Marco and build a normal relationship with him for yeas, but she did not succeed and gave up hope. At that point she could not even bear his presence.
She was totally right because Marco could get on your nerves even if you had the patience of a saint. He was arrogant and ungrateful and he never put himself in other’s people shoes, trying to understand their reasons and had not got the minimum reverential fear and respect that was due to a parent.
On the other hand can you respect your parent if they abandoned you?
I was coming back from work and I was very worried because Marco did not answer the phone. When I arrived home he was soundly asleep. I checked the drugs he had to take in case he got a higher dosage, but everything was all right.
When he woke up his gaze was empty and he hardly moved his head as if he was in plaster It must have been the drugs side effects, but I could not stand that sight. With a weak voice he asked me: “dad can I come home? I cannot make it on my own”
But you are not alone, I am with you!
I was grasping at straws saying that at present our only concern was to think about healing, then this problem could be faced. I was shamelessly lying.
I could not say to him: your mother cannot stand you anymore, she does not want to see you and she is terrified by the fact that you could come home, you are punishing your foster mother for the errors that your mother made, the one who abandoned you.
You hate and love your mother because you have the desperate need to feel and say: this is my mother.
You don’t have the slightest idea of what she had to bear for you. When you arrived in Italy you were a little puppy, you did not know the alphabet, he could not name and match colours, she taught you how to write and how to talk. Day after day at school she fought for you when bigoted mothers accused you of harassing their daughters, then we understood they provoked you, because you were and still are a good looking boy.
Obviously the fact the you were first refused and abandoned does not allow you to understand what you mother has done for you.
Marco and I moved into my house and in the meantime we began looking for an adequate facility for him.
I asked to work at Ciampino Airport so I could be at home every night, and I was whole-heartedly granted this possibility.
I can also rely on my neighbour’s help and I feel all right, even if my mind keeps picturing preposterous situations.
I told him to keep the home key in the lock all the time because I am afraid he can be locked out. He is distracted and absent-minded, he may go out in the yard leaving the door open, so the dogs could get in the house making a mess.
I could not blame him much, now he simply did not care about this. I think he was just trying to re-arrange the first bricks of his life and he stubbornly did it without my help. We often take for granted the foundations on which we built our life.
The other night I went back home, it was dinner time and I asked him to heat up ready made fettuccine with porcini mushrooms. I was watching him eating slowly with his eyes half-closed, he is not even a shadow of his arrogant and rude former self.
He hardly swallowed one fettuccine after the other, it was an agonising view and he is my son. I wish it was me going through that, so he could have a little peacefulness and balance. I should rationally and whole-heartedly leave him alone, but I cannot. I always have a mental picture of my father who was ruthless and violent with powerful people, but he was as meek as a lamb with the dispossessed. Any of the latter could have taken off his clothes, shoes, even underpants and he would not have blinked.
It runs in the family, I cannot help it.
When Marco left the therapeutic community I gave him a little sailing ship, and underneath it was written “when you are in trouble and you feel down, think of me and I’ll always be with you." I will keep that promise .
No condition of indigence or poverty justifies the abandonment of a child. As far as my own experience is concerned I am sure that a child would rather die of starvation or get to know that his parents are in prison, but they did not abandoned him.
If genocide is a crime against humanity, the abandonment of a child is much more, it calls into question the first ethical principle for our survival: a mother who abandons a child. Animals do not do that, or do so only if the little ones are naturally self-sufficient by birth.
It is an everlasting torture and I am sure that my son is wondering – in his own confusion – why he did not get what many people were granted.
Fortunately the days went by rather smoothly. His behaviour did not really changed much, but one night something unexpected occurred. While I was cooking, he came close to me and hugged me crying, calling me dad. He was desperate and looking for help, perhaps he was beginning to trust me.
I kissed on the forehead and I said to him: son listen to me: you and I can get out of this difficult situation and then we’ll do great things.
I hardly held back my tears. After dinner he spontaneously washed the dishes despite he was shaking because of the drugs and because he was very emotional.
I felt a deep tenderness and with the excuse that the dog was barking I went out in the garden and I cried, with composure, it seemed so natural and liberating, watching the starry sky. Maybe something is changing, but I have no illusions.
Yet this was enough to give me a spark of hope to exorcise the present I let myself dream of a life we do not have now but it can still be possible.
In my mind the dreams I had, when I was driving to Campo di Giove at the beginning of this story, came true.
Marco is an adult with good chances of finding a job and we are surfing on our rubber dinghy towards Ponza island, the sea is wavy and we are wearing our wet suit, we are both standing, to control the waves movements, but I am feeling safe because he is with me. I am sure I was a good master and when we’ll start diving he will perform better than me and catch more fish than me. Then on our way back we might tease each other aware that I have to deal with my wife’s reproaches and he has to face his girlfriend’s. She does not understand why Marco prefers to spend his Sundays with an old man like me instead of being with a young and beautiful girl like her.
I went back into the house, Marco had finished doing the washing up and had taken his pills, for the first time in a month he wished me good night and went to sleep.