(About a 2 minute read)
Bob was a university president and — with his wife, Edith — a frequent dinner guest at our table while I was in high school. I recall one evening Bob used a word new to me. Vita.
“Oh, I mean a curriculum vitae, Paul.” Bob said as an aside in answer to my question. He all too quickly hastened back to what he’d been talking about. I could tell by his smile he was merely pretending that he had sufficiently explained to me what a vita was.
“Wait! What’s a curriculum vitae?”
Bob looked at me in triumph that I had risen to his bait. Then his expression suddenly changed to fake, drop-jaw shock. “You don’t know…let’s be sure about this…you do not know what a curriculum vitae is?
“Son! Have you already forgotten the vocabulary you were taught at two to three years of age!”, Mom demanded, picking up on Bob’s cue.
“Not my brother.” My younger brother said, looking at my older brother, “Do you recognize him?”
“Nope. That’s not Paul. Can’t be. Our brother is a genius.” My older brother replied, “This is precisely what comes of leaving the door unlocked at nights!”
“It’s ok Paul, or whoever you are.” Edith said in a sympathetic tone. “You can always come live with us, so long as we can call you ‘Paul’, and you’re willing to do the dishes.”
“If he’s willing to do the dishes, then he can’t be my son Paul.” Mom said.
Three or four minutes later, the locally famous “Sunstone family humor” (Which was by no means confined to our family) had subsided enough that Bob answered my question in earnest. He then went on with his story.
“So, as I was saying, I called a meeting of my deans and explained that I wanted them to write a vita of their failures. Not of their accomplishments, but of their failures. I gave them one month in which to do it. Yesterday we had a follow up meeting. Each of my deans read his or her vita and then I went last with mine…”.
“But why?” Ask younger brother.
“Because, as you will learn, how a person handles failure speaks more about his or her character than how he or she handles success.”
“I still don’t understand.” Younger brother said, always the most honest of anyone in a room.
“You’ll learn.” Bob said.
“You’ll learn.” Mom said.
“You’ll learn.” Edith said. I recall thinking she said it as much to herself as to my brother.
This post was inspired by Sierra Parr’s interview of Dr. Andrea Dinardo, which can be found here.