Maternal Kin, Photographs, Virginia

John C. Allen Jr.

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If he were living, he would be 107. I never knew him. My mother barely did; he died when she was 10; he is a mythological figure. His children speak of him reverentially, wistfully, with smiles. His widow sometimes spoke of him with a tinge of anger, a sense of abandonment that simmered low. He is a wraith made more so by her timeless solidity at our family’s core. Her light had only just begun to dim when she left us in 2010; she was 101. He was 41– younger than the youngest of his grandchilden. Frozen in 1948 — a slight, brown-skinned man with swayback legs and a small smile. My little ears are his. The tiny flaps at the inner corners of my eyes. The flare-ups of inner darkness. Who was he? Why?

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