The first time I had ever experienced what most would consider intuition was about the age of 7. My parents had informed my younger brother and me that we were expecting a special guest to stay the weekend at our house. One of my father’s mentors in college or his career.
My brother and I were good kids with an particular flair for pushing each other’s buttons, as siblings typically do – I scared him with ghost stories and would jump out from behind furniture to give him a fright. He chased me around the house with an E.T. finger and the more ghoulish-looking He-Man figures.
My mother had given us the head’s up about the visitor and that we were to be on our best behavior. Not a problem.
Suspicious individuals don’t always wear black.
Just before dinner, the doorbell rang. My brother and I fluttered behind our parents into the foyer, ready to politely greet our guest and introduce ourselves.
My father opened the door and welcomed the gentleman inside. He was an older man in his late 70’s, early 80’s, dressed in khaki pants and a white and blue striped button down shirt. Holding what appeared to be a suitcase in hand, the elderly man graciously stepped inside our home.
He politely greeted my mother, commenting on how lovely the house was, then turned to my brother and me, smiling kindly to introduce himself.
My little brother toddled up to the gentlemen calling him, “Paw-Paw,” since he resembled my grandfather with a full head of white hair and friendly smile.
For me, however, this was the first time I can recall where I could not figure out why I did not like an adult.
I was smiling, behaving kindly as my mother had taught me to do. But the top of my head tingled. My stomach hurt. I had no idea why this awful feeling was in my gut.
I swallowed hard and ignored it as my parents ushered the man into our home. My father gave him the tour of the house while my brother and I headed to the kitchen with my mother to prepare for our guest.
Mind your manners and set the table.
“I don’t like him,” I whispered to my mother as I clinked the silverware down on our large oak dining table.
“Shhh. He’s one of your father’s mentors and he’s a nice man. It will be ok,” she encouraged me. “Don’t forget the napkins.”
I don’t remember the dinner. In fact, I don’t remember much more until right before bedtime.
My brother and I had washed up, put our pajamas on, and came back downstairs to say goodnight to everyone before traipsing off to bed.
As my right foot stepped onto the tile in the foyer, I halted as I spied the elderly man again standing next to my parents, talking. My little brother not pausing from toddling down the stairs bumped into me and we stumbled into the room, looking up to meet the steady, comical gaze from the adults.
“Daddy, I don’t like him.” This time I said it more boldly.
The horrific look that spread upon my mother’s face could have stopped a freight train. In that instant I knew I was probably going to face a stern reprimanding before bedtime.
Tears did not sting my eyes. My eyes were locked on the elderly man, almost daring him to make a move. I knew better than to disobey my parents. I knew better than to talk rudely in front of an adult, especially a grandfatherly adult.
“It’s ok honey,” my father said kindly and started walking towards me to give me a reassuring side hug.
“No,” the strange man said carefully. “I think it is best if I stay at a motel.”
He disappeared to fetch his suitcase from the guest bedroom. My mother escorted us upstairs as I felt the heat from her disappointment blaze across the back of my neck.
Peace as a safety zone.
I don’t remember any lectures, fussing or correction as she tucked me into bed. All I remember was relief. So much relief that I could slip off to sleep without worry. Without trouble. Without fear.
My stomach did not hurt anymore. No more tingling. Peace had returned to our home.
Since that day, I have asked my parents exactly who was the man that came to visit. From my father’s recollection, the man was a prominant salesman starting a new business venture, and he was there to persuade my parents into becoming a part of it.
They did not remember him being intimidating, smarmy, or pushy. To this day, I do not know why I did not like him being in our house. I will probably never know exactly what it was about him that upset me.
But this was the first instance where I definitively felt in my whole little being that some people are not as pleasant, good or honest as they presented themselves to truly be.
This important lesson has come back time and time again when people or situations were more devious than what appeared on the surface.