A Good Failure

A Good Failure

(Generations run long in our family. My older grandfather was born in rural Mississippi in September, 1869. He lived until 1961, through immense changes in the political and social landscape which he puzzled to make sense of.  I hope this remembrance does him justice.)

“You can learn a lot from a good failure,” my grandpa used to say,
Whenever he could get anyone to listen, which was not that often.
He probably spoke from experience, as someone who went bust
During the Texas oil boom at the turn of the last century.

Undaunted, he moved furniture and family further north,
Though he never lost some of the regionalisms of his upbringing.
For the next 20 years or so, he plodded along as a Baltimore bookkeeper,
Counting other people’s money, until the Depression dried up even that.
He got odd jobs when he could, but mainly lived out the rest of a long life
Supported by the earnings of his wife, and later his children.

If that hurt his Southern male pride, he got over it.
He raised berries, which flourished, and pecan trees, which
Grew spindly and refused to bear fruit
In the Maryland climate. During the summer,
He sat in their shade in a rakish straw hat, waving a straw fan,
Telling his granddaughter stories of triumphs and failures.

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