A few years before we moved back to Oakland from the Midwest we lived in Palo Alto. The first house we lived in was just a few blocks from Steve Jobs’ lovely brick house. One spring the garden on the west side of his property was planted with California poppies. It was a stunning sight to walk by and see the yard in full bloom. There was something magical about the house, too. So modest. So fitting for a man who’s iconic outfit was a mock turtleneck and jeans. The place looked comfortable.
I met Steve one time. I was walking home from a shopping trip to the Apple Store on University Avenue and ran into him on the sidewalk on Waverly Street. I was toting my Apple store purchase in one of their small drawstring shopping bags. He noticed it and smiled. I was nearly struck dumb. “I love what you’ve done,” I stammered. “Thanks,” he said and continued towards downtown with his daughter. I walked home and thought about all the clever things I could have said on the occasion of meeting one of my heroes. It was a fleeting moment, but I have thought about that encounter often in the years since.
Here was the guy who made something called the iPod. A guy who made gadgets and tools with soul. He was, even then, years before the iPhone and the iPad, the most visionary of technology CEOs. And what was he doing on that beautiful summer evening? Walking downtown with his daughter. They were heading in the direction of the Apple store, but they could have been walking downtown to get an ice cream cone. She was holding his hand and they were walking and talking. The lasting impression of that moment is the image of a dad taking a walk with his daughter.
The man with the turtleneck and blue jeans. Comfortable. Like the John Mayer song. A dad. A husband. A person who clearly knew love.
I don’t imagine there is another CEO for whom I would shed a tear on the news of his death.