I don't consider myself to be a super-intuitive person but I have definitely known others who have possessed a sort of sixth sense. One person close to me has always been able to find lost objects, getting images or impressions of them... for example, keys lost in a couch, jewelry fallen behind a dresser, etc.
My intuitive claim to fame, back in the early 1990s when landlines were still in use (and before we had caller ID) related to the telephone. I was lucky to have my own telephone line and often got an impression when the phone began to ring about who was calling me. I somehow just knew from the way it rang who would be on the other end of the call. On a few occasions in high school I even startled friends by answering the phone with their name, e.g. "Hi Sally!" leaving them to ask, "How did you know it would be me?"
With the advent of caller ID and cell phones, this tiny bit of intuition lost its value and I retreated quite happily into a normal life with no special sensitivities.
Recently in Spain though, I've noticed to my surprise that I've been having more intuitive moments. Last week, for example, Señor Aventura and I were sitting on a bench in the subway station waiting for our train. We began to talk about our upcoming anniversary (14 years!) and where we should go to celebrate it. Suddenly we noticed that our train had arrived. We jumped up quickly, raced through its sliding doors just as they were starting to close, and rode it to our stop.
When we exited the underground train and began to take the escalator up toward daylight, I suddenly had the strongest feeling that I was missing something important. "What is it?" I scanned my mind, and then without any factual basis I told my husband, "Wait. I've lost my phone."
"You've got it, you just had it," he replied.
"No, it's gone."
"I'm sure it's in your purse."
"No, I don't think so."
We pulled off to the side of the station so others could pass us by, and I pulled out all of the contents of my purse. I also emptied my pockets and looked through my jacket. No cell phone.
"Where could you have left it?" he asked.
"I must have left it on the bench at the other subway station," I replied.
We caught the attention of a subway attendant, who promised to radio back to the other station. Within minutes we jumped aboard the next train, returned to our original station, and tracked down some help. A man nodded at me and pointed to a door, beckoning me over. "Can you describe the cellular?" he asked.
Sure enough, they'd found it and put it in their safe.
Again, the only reason why this story is relevant (after all, everyone loses their phone sometimes) is that I knew I'd lost the phone before I'd actively looked for it, and before I even realized that I could have left it at the station. Weirdly, I just knew it was gone.
Fast forward. Yesterday afternoon, we'd planned to go see "Kubo y Los Dos Cuerdos Magicas" (Kubo and The Two Strings) as a family. While waiting to leave for the movie, I went downstairs and watched my boys play some soccer... then played tennis with The Scientist for a while. (Our 11 year old turns out to have a natural ability with the racket, and is impressively good although he's never had a lesson. #proudmama!!!)
At 4:00pm, I left my boys playing on the cement soccer field to go upstairs and get ready for the movie. "Come up right at 4:30," I told them. "We don't want to be late for the movie." As I was walking away from them, I looked at my eldest boy holding the soccer ball and suddenly I got the strongest feeling that his little brother might get hurt.
"Don't kick the ball near Soccer Dude's head or stomach," I told The Scientist. "I don't want anyone getting hurt.
"Sure mom, no problem," agreed The Scientist. "We're just going to pass it back and forth a little longer."
I smiled at them both, noting that Soccer Dude was putting on his goalie gloves. It was a beautiful, warm afternoon and the boys were in good spirits ~ getting along well.
Then I left, feeling good that they were safe in the completely protected cement soccer court that is part of our apartment complex. Many other children and families were around.
Around 11 minutes later though, the buzzer in our apartment began to ring insistently.
"Oh no," I found myself thinking. "That's got to be a boy. Nobody else would ring it so many times at once. That can't be good. They know we aren't leaving for another 20 minutes... maybe they are fighting. Or, someone got hurt." I shivered involuntarily, remembering the last words I'd told them. "I hope Soccer Dude is okay."
I buzzed them up and a few minutes later, our doorbell rang and Little Angel went to let her brothers into the apartment.
"Mom!" called The Scientist urgently. "Soccer Dude is hurt!"
My jaw must have clenched a little as I strode quickly down the hallway. I looked first at my 9 year old son's face and chest. Both seemed okay. He was not crying. I didn't see any blood.
"What's the problem?"
"It's my arm, and my hand," Soccer Dude said. "It really hurts. I was trying to block his goal. My hand got pushed so hard, all the way back. The ball snapped my hand back toward my arm."
"It was an accident!" exclaimed his big brother. "I didn't mean to hurt him. I was just kicking the ball."
"Yes. It was an accident, Mom," Soccer Dude agreed.
In my mind's eye I tried to visualize what they were telling me, to understand what had happened. The Scientist must have kicked the soccer ball toward the goal. He has a very powerful kick. His little brother, playing goalie, must have jumped up to block the kick, using his gloved hands. The force of the ball must have made a strong impact on his wrist, if it snapped backward.
"Can I see it?"
I examined my son's wrists, first the painful one and then the other. He'd had a broken wrist four years ago, as a kindergartener, when he fell off the monkey bars at school. I had clear, vivid memories of what his wrist had looked like back then, before I took him to the emergency room. It had been misshapen and swollen, and he'd been very pale and sweaty.
He did not look that way now. I looked for signs of swelling or a broken bone. We put ice on it, fifteen minutes on and fifteen minutes off. There was no immediate sign of urgent trauma, but still. We agreed to keep an eye on the wrist. We decided not to go to the movies.
"On a scale of 0 to 10, how much does it hurt buddy?"
"Six," he replied.
I winced, knowing he has a high tolerance for pain. His six is someone else's eight.
Several hours later, the number had risen. Soccer Dude's wrist hurt him so much, he was having trouble falling asleep.
"Mom, can you look at my wrist again? It really hurts."
When I examined it this time, the picture had changed a little. Now there was clear swelling and bruising beginning on both sides of the wrist. His thumb was also hurting him quite a bit. Flexing the wrist was very painful.
"What do you think?" I asked him. We've been through enough medical situations together between his injuries and allergic reactions over the years. I know I can trust him not to overreact, because he hates hospitals and only asks to go to the doctor when he really needs the help. "Can it wait until morning? Do you want to wait to see a doctor tomorrow?"
"I'm sorry mom," he said. "I know it's late, but it really hurts. I don't want to go to the hospital, but I think I need help tonight."
"Okay. We'll figure it out. You probably need an x-ray."
I got out of bed, threw on some jeans and a warm jacket, and put our Spanish health insurance information into my purse. Soccer Dude tried to zip up his own jacket but his lip began to wobble when he couldn't do it. "It really, really hurts mom."
Señor Aventura opted to stay with The Scientist and Little Angel, encouraging us to take a taxi.
And this is how, around 10pm last night, Soccer Dude and I found ourselves in the elevator headed down six floors on our way into the night to find an urgent care and get an x-ray.
"I'm sorry, Mom," Soccer Dude repeated as he hugged me. "I know it's late."
"Honey, I'm not upset at all. My only regret is that I didn't listen to my intuition earlier today. I had a feeling that something was going to happen, but I didn't stop you two from continuing to play. Oh well. We'll figure this out."
When we got to the lobby of our building, everything was deeply silent. Unlike the exciting Gracia neighborhood, most of Sarrià (families and elderly people) was sound asleep by 10pm on a Sunday night.
We sat down on the black leather couch in the lobby and tried to formulate a solid plan. "We need to find a clinic that takes children," I said. "And, it needs to accept our insurance."
"How will we do that?" asked Soccer Dude.
"Let me think for a minute..." I responded, looking through Google Maps.
Just then, a black car drove toward our building and parked. We could see its lights through the glass walls of the lobby. Its passenger door opened and out popped a little girl, holding a bag of sand toys. She was followed shortly thereafter by another little girl, and then another. The three girls began to carry their backpacks toward the door of our lobby.
"I wonder if they live here," I thought, and then noticed their mother was walking toward the door as well.
I opened our lobby door for her.
"Hola," I greeted her. "Lo siento, yo no hablo español muy bien. Creo que mi hijo puede haber roto un juego de futbol hueso. Conoce a un hospital cerca de este apartamento para los niños?" (Hi, I'm sorry - I don't speak Spanish well. I think my son may have broken a bone playing soccer. Do you know a hospital near this apartment for kids?)
Like every other Catalan person I've met, she answered me with a smile and perfect English. For once I was in no mood to protest the use of English; we were very tired and it was late at night. I was grateful to speak in my language and just needed to find a clinic for Soccer Dude.
"Yes of course," she replied. "There is a very good clinic near here. What insurance do you have?"
I explained our insurance and she pointed me toward a hospital emergency room a short walk away. "You do not need a taxi," she explained. "It is less than 10 minutes walk."
She also confirmed that they took children. As we gathered our jackets and my bag, we thanked the kind mother and her children. She and her husband welcomed us to the building. As it turns out, they live right above us on the 7th floor! Soccer Dude and I bid them goodnight and headed out into the dark evening.
Soccer Dude is such a brave kid. I tried to put myself in his shoes as we walked down the street... Nine years old, slightly homesick, tired, hurting, and walking at half-past ten toward a hospital to see if he had a broken bone. He must be a little scared.
There wasn't much to bring joy in that picture... but my boy managed to speak as positively as he could with me in Spanish as we walked down the hill toward the hospital, following the map on my phone.
"I really, really hope it's not broken, Mom," he said a little sorrowfully. "Tomorrow is the first day of soccer at school."
"I hope not too. Let's hope it's just a sprain."
As we continued our journey down the dark street, I could feel my heart racing a little. This was not the first time I'd taken Soccer Dude to an urgent care or emergency room late at night... but it was definitely the first time we'd walked there alone in a foreign country. I reminded myself how safe Barcelona is, even at night, and every time we passed a woman bicycling or walking on her own, I reinforced to myself that walking in the dark in our neighborhood of Sarrià is not a big deal. Yes, it is a little too quiet. But the quiet here doesn't have to be menacing. Our street was mostly decently lit and there were still people walking here and there.
"I wish we were there already, Mom," said Soccer Dude, grabbing my hand tightly.
"Good news!" I smiled at him cheerfully. "We nearly are!"
We arrived at the Hospital Universitario Dexeus Quiron Barcelona and followed the neon signs toward "urgencias". These led us toward a small, brightly lit waiting room and a kind-faced woman with brown hair... perhaps in her mid-twenties.
I stumbled my way through an explanation in terrible Spanish of what had happened to my son and how we hoped a doctor could check his wrist.
"Of course, madam," she smiled, and then helped me figure out our insurance number before giving us four registration stickers and a wrist band. "Make a right and wait in the room until you are called. Your number is M267." She highlighted the numbers on the paper for good measure, just to be sure we were clear.
The waiting room was slightly bigger than the lobby, and very bright. Everything, in fact, appeared to be white. On the wall a flat-screened television replayed a Barcelona futbol game, which the people sitting opposite us were watching casually.
"Do you want to watch this?" I asked Soccer Dude, but he shook his head and leaned against me instead, closing his eyes.
"How are you feeling?" I asked.
"It really hurts," he said. "Especially when I move it."
About twenty minutes later, our number was called. Wide automated gray doors swung open, ushering us into a long hallway lined with triage rooms. A nurse beckoned us into room 22 and motioned for Soccer Dude to sit down on the examining bed.
She had no English, but somehow I managed to communicate in Spanish the reason for our visit, and take her through his known allergies when she asked. She had me write them down on a tongue depressor, just to be sure she was understanding perfectly.
"The doctor will be here soon," she promised.
Sure enough, within about 10 more minutes, a doctor entered the room. He was young, with dark hair and a kind smile. I would have pegged him for a resident, or a newly minted physician in his early 30s. He looked like a futbol player himself.
"Let me see your hand," he asked Soccer Dude in English.
Soccer Dude held out his arm tentatively. The doctor began to palpate the bones, feeling for anything out of place. He pressed on his thumb and the socket between the base of the thumb and the rest of the hand. "Does this hurt?"
"Yes," agreed Soccer Dude, his eyes filling with tears. "Yes."
"I am going to order an x-ray," the doctor nodded at me. "It is not an obvious break but we are going to check to be sure."
"Good," I agreed.
Moments later a blonde nurse closer to my age arrived and walked us next door into the x-ray room. "Mama, you wait out here," she said after I helped wrap the heavy protective lead drape around his small body. She led me to a small exterior room while she took two x-rays of his hands.
I could hear her talking to him inside of the next room, and wondered what Soccer Dude must be feeling, alone in a dark hospital x-ray room late at night.
Happily, the x-ray pictures took only moments and soon enough I heard her say to him, "We finish."
Back in the triage room, Soccer Dude lay down with his head in my lap. "I hope it's not broken," he whispered as his eyes drooped and then shut. "I hope I can go home soon."
As the minutes ticked by and Soccer Dude dozed, I thought again of the afternoon. I remembered the sense I'd had that something could happen right when I left the cement soccer field; and the way I'd pushed it to the side. "I should pay more attention to those feelings when I get them... if I ever get any again."
When the door slid back open, the young doctor was holding out a piece of paper for me. "It is a fracture of the radius," he explained in Spanish. "The x-ray shows a fracture. Do not worry though, this is a very common injury in children - especially athletic little boys."
He smiled at Soccer Dude resting in his Barcelona jersey and Messi sponsored Adidas turf shoes. "We will put him in a cast for three weeks. Then we will check it, and perhaps he will not need a cast any more."
"What did he say, Mom?" asked Soccer Dude, eyes wide. "Am I okay? Is it broken?"
"Honey, he says it is a fracture. That means a break. So yes, one of the bones is broken. But you will be okay. Just three weeks in a cast. You can do this. Remember... we've been through this before."
When Soccer Dude fractured the ulna and radius of his other arm four years ago, I had to argue somewhat strenuously with the ER staff at the pediatric emergency room in San Diego against the use of general anesthesia to reset his bones. Not only was the anesthesia unnecessary and with its own inherent dangers, but it was also expensive. "We don't want him to feel any pain," they'd said, and I'd told them, "My son is very strong and can deal with a few minutes of pain. He has a history of severe allergies to medication and we don't need to add additional, unnecessary risk to this situation."
"Well, you're his mother," they'd finally agreed.
"Yes. I am."
We compromised on using a local anesthetic, and it went just fine.
"I'm impressed," the doctor had remarked to her nurse. "I'm loving this local right now."
Last night, I looked into the face of the dark-haired young doctor and broached the topic warily, preparing myself for another argument. "Do you plan to use anesthesia for this?"
He frowned at me and shook his head. "No, no. There is no need for this. No anesthesia. We will bring the casting materials here to you in a few minutes. It will not take long."
I exhaled. "I love this country."
Sure enough, a nurse wheeled in a fully loaded cart a short time later. It contained a basin, several types of wraps, some medical tape and scissors... and probably other items I did not notice at the time. "The doctor will be back soon to make the cast," she smiled.
"Do not worry!" the doctor spoke gently as he encouraged Soccer Dude. "It is only a half-cast! You will be well very soon."
He made sure the bones were in the correct position and proceeded to expertly wrap Soccer Dude's small arm, constructing a plaster cast around the fabric sleeve, then wrapping it all neatly with a large fabric bandage and securing it with medical tape.
"All done!" he said. "You can go home now."
"Do we need to check out with the woman at the front desk?"
"No," he said. "You can just go home."
And that was that! The receptionist kindly called us a taxi and encouraged us to wait indoors until it arrived. The taxi arrived and it's balding driver and I negotiated our way through three languages to figure out the route home, since driving in Barcelona is much more convoluted than walking due to one-way streets.
By 12:30am, Soccer Dude and I were at last home entering our cozy apartment.
In almost exactly two hours we'd walked to a hospital, received a checkup and an x-ray, gotten a diagnosis and a cast, and taken a taxi back home.
While his brother and sister slept nearby, I helped my son bathe to wash away any hospital germs, making sure to keep his cast protected from water. I helped him take the cap off of the toothpaste so he could brush his teeth, since it's hard to do with only one good hand. Soon he was tucked into bed.
"You're staying home from school tomorrow," I told him. "It's 1am. Just sleep, get a lot of rest so your arm can heal. Tomorrow we will have a good day. When you wake up we will do something special together."
"Okay mom," he sighed, wiping away tears. "I'm so, so sad to miss the first day of soccer."
"I know, buddy." I gave him one last hug and trudged down the hallway, exhausted.
Sleep did not come easily though. My mind replayed the events of the day. I thought about what it means to be a mother, and how tough it is to watch the people you love most suffering and not be able to bear the pain or sorrow for them.
I thought about the future, recognizing that I cannot protect my kids from the hard things that will inevitably happen in their lives. The best gift I can give them as a mom is to be there for them but also let go enough to allow them to develop their own inner strength and grit. It's a tricky balance between caring and nurturing... and also slowly taking my hands off the reins.
Someday I will no longer be here to help Soccer Dude, The Scientist or Little Angel... so my job right now is to teach them by example how to be courageous and calm in a variety of situations, while helping them gradually learn how to take good care of themselves.
I hope this is one of the gifts that the year of European adventure will yield for our family! Even through the harder days, I pray that this amazing time abroad ends with stronger, even more resilient kiddos prepared to weather all manner of sticky situations (and soccer balls) with confidence, grace... and intuition!