Wednesday, October 5, 2011

steve jobs (lyn)

I get home from theater tonight and there is a message from Zelia.  “Where are you?  Where are you?  Where are you?  Call me.  Call me.  Call me.” I do.  “So, what do you think,” she asks when I call her back.  “About what?”  “Steve Jobs,” she says.  “What about Steve Jobs,” I ask.”  “He died.”

Of course this was expected.  But still, hearing the words is unsettling and sad.  Obama said it well. His office issued a press release that read in part, “And there may be no greater tribute to Steve's success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”  Steve Jobs was an innovator and a visionary who, maybe better than anyone else in history, combined business brilliance with creative genius.  He defied conventional marketing wisdom. He didn’t do a lot of research to find out what consumers thought.  He anticipated their needs and then built the products he intuitively knew consumers wanted.

I am a huge Apple fan. In my small two-person household, we have two MacBook pros, two iPads, one iPhone (that will soon change to two), one Apple TV (I am considering another), and numerous iterations of iTouches, iPods, and Nano’s.  Apple products, aesthetics and customer service are the best in the industry.  When a friend buys a new computer and it is not a Mac, or a new phone that is not an iPhone, I am personally (and of course unreasonably) disappointed. 

But with all that Mr. Jobs has accomplished, when I hear his name, I immediately think of two things:  Genius, and the fact that he initially (and for a few years after) denied paternity of his first-born daughter, Lisa.

Steve had an on-again-off again girlfriend in high school.  She got pregnant and had a baby in 1978, just two years after Jobs founded Apple with Steve Wozniak.  While Apple was beginning to take off, Jobs’ baby daughter and mother were living on welfare.  For many years, Mr. Jobs refused to acknowledge Lisa, even swearing in court documents that he was “sterile and infertile.”  Later, he reversed his position and did acknowledge his daughter.  She even lived with him for a while.  So perhaps he made up for his initial behavior.  But still. 

I am a single mother, so I am more sensitive than most about Mr. Job’s initial reaction toward his first-born.  Mr. Jobs was only 23 when his daughter Lisa was born.  Alexander’s father (E) was only 29 when his first child was born.  Both Mr. Jobs and E were not ready to be fathers, and both found themselves in that position quite unexpectedly.  And while E. (my son’s dad) may not win prizes for being the most involved father, he has never denied paternity, and he has always generously supported our son.

I don’t think there is anyone whose creative and business genius I admire as much as Mr. Jobs.  But at the same time, for me, his name will always be tainted by his youthful denial of his child.   

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