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.