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My Neighbor, Steve Jobs

His legacy is more than what we see In the headlines.

My neighbor, Steve Jobs, has been in the news lately. The talk of the town is the recent announcement he will be stepping aside to let other seeds grow at Apple. The business press, the general press, the blogosphere, and just about everybody else has waxed poetic about the “greatest CEO of all time” saying that this “boy wonder” has shaped the very nature of our lives with his genius. 

It’s all true, but here in Palo Alto, Steve Jobs isn’t just an icon, he’s also the guy who lives down the street. 

I first met Steve (does anyone call him Mr. Jobs anymore?) years ago at a backyard pool party. I was so flummoxed by the off chance I was breathing in his DNA, I could barely say a word. I am sure I made a winning first impression as I stumbled over my own name when we were introduced. 

I watched as he swam in the pool with his son. He seemed like a regular guy, a good dad having fun with his kids. 

The next time I met him was when our children attended school together. He sat in on back-to-school night listening to the teacher drone on about the value of education (wait, isn’t he one of those high-tech gods who didn’t even graduate from college?) while the rest of us sat around pretending having Steve Jobs in the room was totally normal. 

Not long after, I saw Steve as I was running in our neighborhood. He was deep in conversation with a younger version of himself—his very own mini-me in jeans, black T-shirt, and wire-rimmed glasses. I must have looked like an idiot as I tripped over a crack in the pavement trying to give them wide berth.

It was at Halloween not long after when I realized he actually knew my name (yes, my name!). He and his wife put on a darn scary haunted house (to be specific, a haunted garden). He was sitting on the walkway, dressed like Frankenstein. As I walked by with my son, Steve smiled and said, “Hi Lisen.” My son thought I was the coolest mom in town when he realized The Steve Jobs knew me. 

Thanks for the coolness points, Steve.

From then on, when I saw him holding his executive meetings in our neighborhood, I didn’t hesitate to smile and say hi. Steve always returned the favor, proving he may be a genius, but he is also a good neighbor.

In time, things changed. The walks were less frequent, the gait slower, the smile not so ready. Earlier this year, when I saw Steve and his wife walking down our street holding hands, I knew something was different. Now, so does the rest of the world.

While Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal and CNET continue to drone on about the impact of the Steve Jobs era, I won’t be pondering the MacBook Air I write on or the iPhone I talk on. I will think of the day I saw him at his son’s high school graduation. There Steve stood, tears streaming down his cheeks, his smile wide and proud, as his son received his diploma and walked on into his own bright future, leaving behind a good man and a good father who can be sure of the rightness of this, perhaps his most important legacy of all.

 

UPDATE:

Steve Jobs passed away Wednesday, October 5, 2011. Palo Alto Patch has opened a tribute page for him, .

Cindy Ashley October 06, 2011 at 08:58 PM
I'm glad I found this article. I too was struck with such sadness when I heard the news ... a sadness that surprised me as I knew Steve Jobs not at all but still was touched by his contributions, large and small and awed by the man, his spirit and humanity.
JOHN WALKER October 07, 2011 at 06:02 AM
As the foster father for more than 300 infants over 20 years, I reflected upon the joy that Steve's adoptive parents must have had with seeing this young child they made their own become the adult who gave the world so much (ideas, instruments of learning, tens of thousands of jobs). There are so many of our children waiting to be adopted and loved as Steve's loved him. Don't wait. John Walker, Windermere, FL
steven mandzik October 07, 2011 at 10:29 PM
I love it: "his very own mini-me in jeans, black T-shirt, and wire-rimmed glasses." I wish the best for the family. Steve http://1X57.com
Tm Craig October 08, 2011 at 10:53 AM
I equate my admiration for Apple the way a sports fan stays devoted to his team -- through thick and thin. That's because I remember the rough years. I remember the draught. It was the late 80s/early 90s and the PC market was at its height, and once-pure Apple devotees were jumping ship to Dell and HP. I can't say I blame them entirely. The Mac had fewer applications, fewer games,and was incompatibles with just about every non-Mac system. But I stuck with Apple--my entire life--and 25 years later I now know why. It was Steve Jobs' insane attention to detail and perfection that bred in me an allegiance to the Mac OS. No matter how incompatible or expensive my Macs were over the years, I saw in the Mac OS a system was simply better, hands down. And I defended that position, and still am, for years. Steve built a better mousetrap ... for the PC market, the portable music market, the cellphone market, and the tablet market. I just pray that there are others in the Apple ranks that are able to carry on Jobs' vision, for the benefit of my kids' generation. Apple was everything to my generation, and now I'm realizing just how much Jobs shaped my life. Pretty amazing! TC, New York. 7/23/68
Michael October 12, 2011 at 10:24 PM
A Wonderfully fresh perspective. Thank You

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