Strangely Personal

The chicken was actually really good last night. Sometimes it can be a bit dry, like it’s been sitting underneath that lamp thing they have in restaurant kitchens. But not this time. It was fresh, it was hot, and it was good. In fact, my belly was pretty full of it, some sweet tea, and some medium buffalo sauce. Emily had just called to talk to dad. I made sure to ask about she and Sean. I wanted to make sure everything was going okay with them. Other than some work stuff, they were doing well. Good to go.

I looked up at the television, hoping to see anything else besides the Amanda Knox coverage on CNN. Steve’s face was there.

What? Why is Steve’s face on television? Sure, the endless commentary on the iPhone 4S announcement the day before had not been drowned out yet. Everyone had their opinion. Some were disappointed. Some were delighted. Some were, shockingly enough, even amazed. I had heard all sides at this point. And, to be honest, I was kind of tired of hearing about it.

But why would Steve’s face be on television about the iPhone 4S? He wasn’t even there, at least as far as I knew. No one had mentioned that he was there. Huh?

“HAS DIED”

Dad wasn’t talking. In fact, no one was talking. I didn’t hear anything around me.

“APPLE SAYS STEVE JOBS HAS DIED”

Surely, that can’t be right. I picked up my iPhone. Shaking in my hand, I knew my adrenalin had kicked in. Yet, it was still quiet around me. Where had everybody gone?

http://www.cnn.com

Nothing there. The only story I recognized was on the non-candidacy of Chris Christie. Nothing there. I looked up. Video montages of Steve. Steve introducing the iPhone. Steve introducing the iPad. The 1984 introduction of the Mac by a young Steve Jobs. The 1984 Super Bowl commercial. Paparazzi flash bulbs go off as B roll footage is shown. They must be wrong.

http://www.apple.com

Steve's Passing

My heart sinks. Noise hits me again. Loud. All around me.

“Oh…my…God.” I say as I stare past dad again. Dad swivels his head around to look at the television screen. His head turns back around to look at me. I am holding my iPhone screen toward him. He looks down to study it.

“Oh no,” he says.

I don’t really remember what he and I said to each other for the last 5 minutes were were sitting there. I told him I needed to leave because my stomach hurt. Which it did. I told dad goodbye, got in my car, and drove home.

———

The night from that point on was not really filled with much discussion. At least verbally.

I got home to find my kids getting ready for bed. Just like it happens every night. We are pushing them to get their jammies on, and their teeth brushed, and their books read. It’s always a challenge. They never want to go to bed. No kid ever does. But they need to. That’s what parents are there for.

I was helping Brian get his jammies on. He finally got his shirt over his humongous head and thrusted his arms out the armholes of the shirt. He stood there looking at me. He didn’t have his glasses on. He still looked like my little baby boy. He’s not really anymore, but when those glasses are off, and he looks at you a certain way, you can still see it. I asked him to come here.

“Why, daddy?”

“Just come here, buddy.”

He walks over. I throw my arms around him.

After a few seconds, “Daddy, are you okay?”

“Yes, buddy, daddy’s fine as long as you’re here. I love you, big boy.”

“I told Mommy I love her. Would you like me to tell you that, too?”

“Yes, buddy. Absolutely.”

———

The next three or four hours I spent combing my Twitter feed. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of tweets regarding Steve’s passing. Most of my Twitter universe is centered around the Apple universe. Whether it’s developers, writers, fans, or Apple itself, that content group consumes most of it. It was too soon yet for the blog posts to be written. Most of it was pure reaction. In 140 characters. You give creatives a limitation, and they will surprise you. Heartfelt. Touching. Sad. Inspirational. Mournful. It was all there.

I’ve never worked for Apple. I don’t know anyone personally that has ever worked for Apple, either directly or indirectly. Most of my Twitter feed, though, is littered with people who are indirectly employed by Apple. Most of them developers. One- to three-man shops that have made a living being a developer for a platform they love. Most started off as Mac developers and have moved over to or supplemented their business with iOS development. Lots of their tweets were ones of gratitude. Without Apple, sure they would probably have a job. But not this job. Not the job they obviously love. Not the job they make incredible sacrifices for. Not the job that keeps them up at night trying to pursue something great. I can understand the resonation this news would impart on them. It means a lot to them. Personally and professionally.

What I was not expecting was the way I was feeling. Something had changed within me. Something was missing. Something was gone. It felt wrong. It still feels wrong. I think someone commented last night that it feels like “we’re missing an ally in the world tonight”. I wasn’t expecting to take this so personally. What I finally realized was that I was feeling the hurt. The hurt of losing someone special to you. I don’t know how else to describe it. I realize how strange that sounds. It feels even stranger. Strangely personal.

———

It’s funny how enticing hope is. Many of you know me as a very logical thinker. I need to grasp what’s happening in a situation and apply logic to it to understand it. I need to know the why. That’s how I get it. And yet, some things elude our normal way of thinking. The logical part of me has always said that Jobs was going to die relatively soon. It’s been trying to convince the emotional side of me for months now.

When Steve went on the indefinite medical leave of absence back in January, it was widely speculated that the cancer that was responsible for his need for a new liver had returned. In the aftermath of that announcement, one of the podcasts I listen to had an actual doctor on the show to explain to them what might be going on. Not knowing any specifics, obviously, the doctor said one thing that stuck with me. At least the logical side of me. He said that no one beats pancreatic cancer twice. If it had come back, he would have another 6-12 months. That’s it. Unfortunately, he turned out to be right.

Even knowing that logically, I always had hope. I think we all did. This was Steve Jobs, right?! If anyone can beat something like this, he can. It’s naive to think that way, but I did. We all do. If we have no hope, we have no reason to keep going. To believe. To think that things can get better. I am often saddened by life’s inevitabilities. I am truly saddened by this one.

———

Grief is another emotion that hits you and you have no idea it’s coming. Sometimes, it taps you on the shoulder. And other times it punches you straight in the mouth. Very directly. I told you earlier, when grief hits me, I collect things.

Why do I collect these things? I don’t know. Maybe it’s my way of coping. From a logical standpoint, I know that my quest to collect these things occupies my mind enough to keep any real feelings away. Out of reach. Just out of reach. Far enough away to where I don’t/won’t have to deal with them right now. I realize now that I don’t really know how to express grief. At least grief that’s not direct. I know it’s there. I just don’t know how to deal with it. My grief usually shows itself when I see and feel the grief from others. The two times in my life I remember just breaking down, uncontrollably:

  • When my grandfather died and seeing my dad walk in the house completely and utterly distraught (that’s a sight children don’t see that often)
  • Strangely enough, watching an “Outside the Lines” piece on a women’s basketball coach who was in a car accident only about 8-9 months after her daughter was born. If I remember the story correctly, she lived long enough to speak to the responding officer. Caroline was 10-11 months old at the time. Jayme was either taking a shower at the time or she was still asleep, I don’t remember. As the officer (with tears streaming) recounted what she said, I just sat there and held Caroline and cried. Cried hard. Just held Caroline. Didn’t want to let her go. Afraid to.

Grief is a strange beast.

———

It felt surreal all day today. I was at work, doing my normal work things. And yet, it was different. I knew there would be no more waiting for the next Steve Jobs keynote. I knew there would be no more Steve one-line emails being passed around the Mac blogosphere. It’s weird. It’s truly the first time we’re living in a world that Steve Jobs is not in. Very surreal.

Four different people expressed their condolences to me today, each in their own way. That sounds very formal when I put it like that, but you get the idea. It was like they knew I had lost someone close to me. How strange is that? Does that happen when the CEO of any other company dies? If nothing else, I think it speaks to the truly unique nature of this man and this company.

I mean, look at the screenshot of the Apple homepage above. Even as I’m writing this, it’s still that way. Think about that for a second. They (Apple) make a major product announcement on Tuesday. This new product will be available for pre-order at 12am this Friday morning (some 22 minutes from now). iOS 5 will ship next Wednesday. The iPhones will ship next Friday. iCloud will be rolled out next week. These are major announcements for any company. Certainly major announcements for Apple. Companies are in business to make money. I’ve become well-acquainted over the past 6 years with the notion of opportunity costs. Opportunity to sell your product to consumers is big business.

And yet, on Apple’s homepage, there is only the picture of Steve himself. Would that happen anywhere else? With any other company? Truly, I don’t believe it would. It’s just one of many reasons I love this company.

———

Back in June, I wrote about my experience attending my first Stevenote. It turns out it was my last Stevenote. It was the last Stevenote.

I’m sure this is in that post, but it bears repeating. I remember when Steve walked out on stage that morning. I had been up for several hours already, standing in line, and had been shuffled through many lines and large groups in order to get to that place at that time. When Steve walked on stage, the entire auditorium erupted in applause. Everyone stood up. It went on for what seemed like an hour. I could feel the warmth, the love, the admiration for the man right then. No one sat there and looked around to see if they should clap and/or cheer. They just did it. They did it because they wanted to. They did it to show their small token of appreciation for the man on stage before them. The man who built this empire they were a part of. Ostensibly, for them.

I was lucky to be part of that moment. It is a moment I will tell my kids about when they are older. I will show them the video of that last WWDC keynote. The last keynote Steve Jobs ever gave. I was there.

Yesterday, the meaning of that experience changed. And for that experience, I cannot thank you enough, Mark and Aaron. It is truly something I will never forget.

Apple

P.S. Finally finished the post about 12:26am Friday morning. Steve’s picture is still there.

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One thought on “Strangely Personal

  1. The morning the Apple WWDC registration opened Lee came to us and asked if he could attend. While the pure business connection was not immediately apparent, Mark and I could tell it was important to him, expanding knowledge was important to us, and it just felt “right”.

    None of us could have predicted the future, but reading Lee’s words this morning it is crystal clear that by attending the WWDC that Apple, Steve, Mark, and I touched his life in a way that was both unpredictable and also exceedingly rare.

    That Conferance sold out in less than 3 hours. Any hesitation and this entire experience would have been lost. Sometimes in life you have to go with your gut. Steve certainly did. 

    Our condolences Lee on the loss of a great inspiration in you life.

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