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The "colored Man"

 

I spent much of my childhood living between U.S. Army bases and Norristown Pennsylvania. It is actually a borough southeast of Philadelphia Pennsylvania. My mother had twelve children, I was number eight. The youngest, a girl was born in June 1970. My Father was reassigned to Germany in December 1969 and my Mother didn't want to move overseas. We lived at her childhood home in Norristown until he returned to the United States three years later.

My sister was the only baby in a house that was always a full of relatives. I think she was about one year old when she started referring to someone called the "Colored Man." She usually saw him in the living room. Sometimes she would say to move so the colored man could get by. No one else ever saw him, we just humored her and moved.

In August 1972, my Father returned to the states and we joined him once again. We moved to Fort Lee Virginia.

While my Mother was setting up the new house, she was arranging some family pictures that were tucked away years ago. My baby sister who was now two years old noticed one in particular and asked my Mother, "Is the colored man tired, that's why he's sleeping?"

The man she was referring to wasn't sleeping, he was my Grandfather, her Father. He had also died in 1961, nine years before her birth. Several times, it was implied that he was the colored man she always referred to but we never had any confirmation one way or the other - until now. It also provided clarification into something she would say at times. Let me explain.

Prior to his death, my Grandfather suffered two strokes. His last days were spent in sitting in the front room, looking out the window, while his grandchildren were trying to get change for the penny candy store.Sometimes, he would get himself a big jar of ice water. He had to use a walker and would tell us, his grandchildren to get out of his way so he could get by.

He was there, she didn't understand why we didn't see him. To her, he was there and used his walker. At least that's what she saw.

After that, my baby sister didn't mention the colored man again, though the pictures remained in clear view.

She has never spoken of him again. Something we can't explain is the fact "colored" is a term no one used in our family, and we are African American.

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The following comments are submitted by users of this site and are not official positions by yourghoststories.com. Please read our guidelines and the previous posts before posting. The author, billyj157, has the following expectation about your feedback: I will read the comments and participate in the discussion.

valkricry (45 stories) (3085 posts) mod
+3
4 weeks ago (2020-07-08)
Very interesting, billyj. I agree, very odd that such a wee child would use a term not heard around the house, and I find it unlikely your Grandfather would refer to himself that way if he spoke to her, just wouldn't make sense.
You mentioned a "house that was always a full of relatives," so am I correct in assuming she was never left in say child-care, or with outsiders? If so, that really narrows the field/likely-hood of hearing it else where. Very puzzling indeed...
Gotta say, impressive vocabulary for a one year old! Mine weren't nearly that articulate at that age.
billyj157 (1 stories) (3 posts)
+2
4 weeks ago (2020-07-08)
The man seemed to be sleeping because he was dead. He was lying in a coffin. It was a picture taken at his funeral. Withholding of comments on this would probably be in the best interests of all concerned.

No, he did not blink. A infant interacted with someone she had never met, known to be deceased and identified them in a photo.

My sister was the only child we are aware of having an experience.
VeronicaMarie (5 stories) (103 posts)
+4
4 weeks ago (2020-07-08)
billyj, I'm curious to know if your little sister was the only grandchild to be born after your grandfather died. Because it's so interesting that she was the only one to see him, or at least, the only one to let the family know that she saw him. And the picture where she asked if he was sleeping, is there something about that picture of him that would make her ask that? Like he was caught on camera right when he blinked his eyes?
billyj157 (1 stories) (3 posts)
+4
4 weeks ago (2020-07-08)
Some comments are clearly made by those who don't understand. Other comments are made by some who THINK they understand.

Please enjoy my story, as I will enjoy the comments. I really appreciate the explanation of polite terms for My People. I don't have a degree so I just prefer my name. I think my ancestors did also.

Others came up with the "polite" terms.
Lealeigh (5 stories) (472 posts)
+1
4 weeks ago (2020-07-07)
Hi Billy,

I just wanted to say that I was the first person on this thread and I said nothing about candy. I grew up in Georgia and I know what the term means. Alina5 is from India and I don't think she knows what is meant by it. Billy, I am sorry that you even needed to clarify.
Bibliothecarius (8 stories) (1037 posts)
+3
4 weeks ago (2020-07-07)
Greetings, billyj157, and welcome.

VeronicaMarie's observation make s a lot of sense. Back in the 20s & 30s, "Negro" was the acceptable term, "Colored" was the polite term post WWII through 1960-ish, which was followed by "Black" during Civil Rights & the Black Power movement. There was some overlap with the timeline on using these terms, but "Colored" may well have been the term your grandfather was accustomed to using just as you use our contemporary term "African-American." (My Master's degree was in African-American Literature, and my historical quotes needed a LOT of contextualization to avoid offending anyone.)

This is a rather sweet story, knowing that your grandfather was still active around the home and that your sister was looking out for him.

Best,
Biblio.
billyj157 (1 stories) (3 posts)
+3
4 weeks ago (2020-07-07)
This is to no one in particular but, must be stated. The term "colored" was and continues to be used when describing African Americans. It has nothing to do with candy, nothing at all.
MrsRamsay (7 stories) (114 posts)
+4
4 weeks ago (2020-07-07)
Really enjoyed your story, and can relate to the "riding out" of a deployment overseas (I'm an Army brat). We used to go to my mom's hometown when Dad was overseas. Perhaps your grandfather was there watching over you all while your dad was gone! It's really neat to think that our small grandchildren might be able to see and interact with us after we die, right?! At the rate my kids are going, no babies in sight after a few years of marriage because they want to travel... I might have no choice but to hang around!
good-ghosts (6 stories) (42 posts)
+5
4 weeks ago (2020-07-07)
Hello billyj157,

It is such a great feeling when you know your loved ones still visit you even after they are not physically present in this world. They must have loved us too much to part their ways.

Great story! I can connect to it since my grandma came to visit my son once. Only he could see her then. He kept playing with her, throwing smiles and kisses at her.

Wonderful experience indeed.

Love
VeronicaMarie (5 stories) (103 posts)
+3
4 weeks ago (2020-07-07)
Really intriguing story, billyj157. Since your grandfather died before the Civil Rights Movement, it makes sense (in a paranormal way) that your sister would use the term 'colored man,'because she might have heard her grandfather using it. I agree with Maria that there is something so poignant, and very endearing, about how compassionate your little sister was towards him. It really does seem that your grandfather came back to bond with his little granddaughter who he never got a chance to meet in life.
Alina5 (3 stories) (136 posts)
+4
4 weeks ago (2020-07-07)
Hello billyj157,

Along with Maria, I also enjoyed reading your account. It still not understandable why she referred to him as the "colored man". Probably she see him loaded to candys and stuffs. Children do have a creative mind to express their words.

On a point of view, it is kind of heart warming that your Grandfather was stil visiting your house even after all these years looking after his daughter and grandchildren.

A beautiful narrative indeed. Thanks for sharing.

Peace
Lealeigh (5 stories) (472 posts)
+1
4 weeks ago (2020-07-06)
Hi billyj157 and welcome to YGS,

I really enjoyed reading this. This story makes me a little sad, though. I guess it's because your sister seemed to say things that were so caring. I wonder why your sister called him that. If he died in 1961, he was probably born in the very late 1800's. Do you think 'colored' was a word he might have used? It's strange. Thank you for sharing this story!

- Maria

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