I do have something from my lost family.
After my father remarried, after I graduated from the Valdosta Institute, I lived a time with my Uncle John, yes, for whom I am named. He became my second father, and my cousins became my brothers. Ah, Robert! Hub! Playmate of my childhood, comrade of my youth. I was, and was to be his dental preceptor. He was to be my professional partner. He waited all my life for me, took no other partner until I had died. George! How we admired him, envied him, at the military academy, going off to war to fight for everything we were and had, as Robert and I could not. How he worked and kept the family afterwards, all of them, with his dry-goods store in those terrible days. And Uncle John, who saved my life at birth, let me live, gave me my very being. Who took me in when I was young and ambitious, bright and lost, strong and hopeful. Who gave me a home again, family.
After the first terrible years after the war, in the late '60s, Uncle John invested in diamonds. We had all had Confederate currency, the notes of which eventually became just so many hard-won leaves blown away in an angry wind. The world is wide and anything can happen. As it already had happened once. A handful of diamonds, clear and bright, though they were not of the brilliantine cut popular later. A handful of surety, real and hard, rational and beautiful. Five or six.
In 1873 I said goodbye to all I knew, feeling bereft, yet hopeful that I would see them all again, feeling determined against all odds and darkness, with a tentative intrigued finger reaching towards an unknown land. I stood on that train platform in Atlanta, some of my beloved family there to say goodbye. And my Uncle John slipped into my hand a tiny rectangular box, thin and long, just larger than my largest finger. A leather case with a gold leaf border, a delicate clasp like a gun part, satin silk inside. And there lay, set in pure gold, one of those diamonds. It had been set as a stickpin, so valuable, both for its worth and what it meant. A quiet gift, to pass to me that surety, that rational beauty. I was not his son. I could not have foreseen it. It was so wonderful, so familial, a token to carry always, of love and esteem, of the value that my Uncle saw in me.
And I carried that stickpin with me always. It held my fine silk ascots, which I bought finer and finer to do it justice. It shone at my throat through all horror, all strength and pride. Finally, dying, with no way to keep myself, in order not to die in agony and pain in a terrible place, I pawned the diamond. And when I died, the bare gold pin, that I still held for love and a token of all I had lost, was sent to my cousin Mattie, my dear cousin, in far off Savannah. Mattie, Mattie, Mattie. The stickpin, a few personal effects, and a few letters in her own hand - all that was left of me for her.Name: John H. Holliday, DDS.
Word Count: 548.
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Nulli Virtute Secundus.