5 October 2011
I’ve followed Steve since 1977, maybe I’ll write about that soon. But right now I’m sad to see he’s left us. I’m trying to say goodbye. I was lucky enough to meet Steve a few times, but there is really only one time. One night Steve stayed at our house.
“House” is a bit of an understatement. At the time my dad was Governor of Ohio and we lived in the Governor’s Residence. It was probably 1989, though I’ve lost track of the actual date, and Steve was visiting Ohio for reasons of his own. I had been an Apple fan since there was an Apple, and at the time I was a Campus Consultant for NeXT, Steve’s new venture. I think that was part of why my dad found a way to invite Steve to spend the night while he was in town.
I have a terrible memory, even for things like this. But I do remember learning that Steve’s diet was quite different from mine, full of nuts and fruit, very specific. Yet he did sit at the table with us, and we were our usual fairly chaotic bunch. I have five brothers and sisters and our table could be somewhat unorthodox, full of politics, argument, and inside jokes. That night, though, I remember being in awe. I’d experience my share of celebrity and was pretty nonchalant around Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul, and Mary, or Jimmy Carter, but this was Steve Jobs. I suddenly felt starstruck, unable to think clearly, unable to speak. After dinner, I remember shooting hoops in the driveway with Steve. How odd, normal, and calm it all was. It was a precious moment for me.
What I didn’t learn until much later was that it was a moment that may have had an impact on Steve as well. A story eventually came back to me that Steve had once had this great evening with the Governor of Ohio and his family. Steve, who had been totally focussed on his businesses to that point, the story went, realized that evening that even a high pressure life of denting the universe could have room in it for family. He began to look for a way to let family into his life. A few years later he was married. Much more recently he watched his son graduate from high school.
I have no idea how close to the truth that story lies. God knows, our cauldron of a family on the fires of public life had severe flaws, but we did have fun too. Getting to have Steve over for the night was fun. If our joy helped nudge him toward opening his life to his own family, I am even more grateful for that night.
I expect his family was around him today. I pray, even though none could follow him where he went, that they gathered close to assure him that all was well, that he could let go, that we would all remember him. I am grateful that he had a chance to build more than a business.