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CHAPTER FORTY-ONE ROUND THREE
The Twilight Struggle



Family Ties

Jobs had an aching desire to make it to his son’s graduation from high school in June 2010. “When I was diagnosed with cancer, I made my deal with God or whatever, which was that I really wanted to see Reed graduate, and that got me through 2009,” he said. As a senior, Reed looked eerily like his father at eighteen, with a knowing and slightly rebellious smile, intense eyes, and a shock of dark hair. But from his mother he had inherited a sweetness and painfully sensitive empathy that his father lacked. He was demonstrably affectionate and eager to please. Whenever his father was sitting sullenly at the kitchen table and staring at the floor, which happened often when he was ailing, the only thing sure to cause his eyes to brighten was Reed walking in.

Reed adored his father. Soon after I started working on this book, he dropped in to where I was staying and, as his father often did, suggested we take a walk. He told me, with an intensely earnest look, that his father was not a cold profit-seeking businessman but was motivated by a love of what he did and a pride in the products he was making.

After Jobs was diagnosed with cancer, Reed began spending his summers working in a Stanford oncology lab doing DNA sequencing to find genetic markers for colon cancer. In one experiment, he traced how mutations go through families. “One of the very few silver linings about me getting sick is that Reed’s gotten to spend a lot of time studying with some very good doctors,” Jobs said. “His enthusiasm for it is exactly how I felt about computers when I was his age. I think the biggest innovations of the twenty-first century will be the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is beginning, just like the digital one was when I was his age.”

Reed used his cancer study as the basis for the senior report he presented to his class at Crystal Springs Uplands School. As he described how he used centrifuges and dyes to sequence the DNA of tumors, his father sat in the audience beaming, along with the rest of his family. “I fantasize about Reed getting a house here in Palo Alto with his family and riding his bike to work as a doctor at Stanford,” Jobs said afterward.

Reed had grown up fast in 2009, when it looked as if his father was going to die. He took care of his younger sisters while his parents were in Memphis, and he developed a protective paternalism. But when his father’s health stabilized in the spring of 2010, he regained his playful, teasing personality. One day during dinner he was discussing with his family where to take his girlfriend for dinner. His father suggested Il Fornaio, an elegant standard in Palo Alto, but Reed said he had been unable to get reservations. “Do you want me to try?” his father asked. Reed resisted; he wanted to handle it himself. Erin, the somewhat shy middle child, suggested that she could outfit a tepee in their garden and she and Eve, the younger sister, would serve them a romantic meal there. Reed stood up and hugged her. He would take her up on that some other time, he promised.

One Saturday Reed was one of the four contestants on his school’s Quiz Kids team competing on a local TV station. The family—minus Eve, who was in a horse show—came to cheer him on. As the television crew bumbled around getting ready, his father tried to keep his impatience in check and remain inconspicuous among the parents sitting in the rows of folding chairs. But he was clearly recognizable in his trademark jeans and black turtleneck, and one woman pulled up a chair right next to him and started to take his picture. Without looking at her, he stood up and moved to the other end of the row. When Reed came on the set, his nameplate identified him as “Reed Powell.” The host asked the students what they wanted to be when they grew up. “A cancer researcher,” Reed answered.

Jobs drove his two-seat Mercedes SL55, taking Reed, while his wife followed in her own car with Erin. On the way home, she asked Erin why she thought her father refused to have a license plate on his car. “To be a rebel,” she answered. I later put the question to Jobs. “Because people follow me sometimes, and if I have a license plate, they can track down where I live,” he replied. “But that’s kind of getting obsolete now with Google Maps. So I guess, really, it’s just because I don’t.”

During Reed’s graduation ceremony, his father sent me an email from his iPhone that simply exulted, “Today is one of my happiest days. Reed is graduating from High School. Right now. And, against all odds, I am here.” That night there was a party at their house with close friends and family. Reed danced with every member of his family, including his father. Later Jobs took his son out to the barnlike storage shed to offer him one of his two bicycles, which he wouldn’t be riding again. Reed joked that the Italian one looked a bit too gay, so Jobs told him to take the solid eight-speed next to it. When Reed said he would be indebted, Jobs answered, “You don’t need to be indebted, because you have my DNA.” A few days later Toy Story 3 opened. Jobs had nurtured this Pixar trilogy from the beginning, and the final installment was about the emotions surrounding the departure of Andy for college. “I wish I could always be with you,” Andy’s mother says. “You always will be,” he replies.

Jobs’s relationship with his two younger daughters was somewhat more distant. He paid less attention to Erin, who was quiet, introspective, and seemed not to know exactly how to handle him, especially when he was emitting wounding barbs. She was a poised and attractive young woman, with a personal sensitivity more mature than her father’s. She thought that she might want to be an architect, perhaps because of her father’s interest in the field, and she had a good sense of design. But when her father was showing Reed the drawings for the new Apple campus, she sat on the other side of the kitchen, and it seemed not to occur to him to call her over as well. Her big hope that spring of 2010 was that her father would take her to the Oscars. She loved the movies. Even more, she wanted to fly with her father on his private plane and walk up the red carpet with him. Powell was quite willing to forgo the trip and tried to talk her husband into taking Erin. But he dismissed the idea.

At one point as I was finishing this book, Powell told me that Erin wanted to give me an interview. It’s not something that I would have requested, since she was then just turning sixteen, but I agreed. The point Erin emphasized was that she understood why her father was not always attentive, and she accepted that. “He does his best to be both a father and the CEO of Apple, and he juggles those pretty well,” she said. “Sometimes I wish I had more of his attention, but I know the work he’s doing is very important and I think it’s really cool, so I’m fine. I don’t really need more attention.”

Jobs had promised to take each of his children on a trip of their choice when they became teenagers. Reed chose to go to Kyoto, knowing how much his father was entranced by the Zen calm of that beautiful city. Not surprisingly, when Erin turned thirteen, in 2008, she chose Kyoto as well. Her father’s illness caused him to cancel the trip, so he promised to take her in 2010, when he was better. But that June he decided he didn’t want to go. Erin was crestfallen but didn’t protest. Instead her mother took her to France with family friends, and they rescheduled the Kyoto trip for July.

Powell worried that her husband would again cancel, so she was thrilled when the whole family took off in early July for Kona Village, Hawaii, which was the first leg of the trip. But in Hawaii Jobs developed a bad toothache, which he ignored, as if he could will the cavity away. The tooth collapsed and had to be fixed. Then the iPhone 4 antenna crisis hit, and he decided to rush back to Cupertino, taking Reed with him. Powell and Erin stayed in Hawaii, hoping that Jobs would return and continue with the plans to take them to Kyoto.

To their relief, and mild surprise, Jobs actually did return to Hawaii after his press conference to pick them up and take them to Japan. “It’s a miracle,” Powell told a friend. While Reed took care of Eve back in Palo Alto, Erin and her parents stayed at the Tawaraya Ryokan, an inn of sublime simplicity that Jobs loved. “It was fantastic,” Erin recalled.

Twenty years earlier Jobs had taken Erin’s half-sister, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, to Japan when she was about the same age. Among her strongest memories was sharing with him delightful meals and watching him, usually such a picky eater, savor unagi sushi and other delicacies. Seeing him take joy in eating made Lisa feel relaxed with him for the first time. Erin recalled a similar experience: “Dad knew where he wanted to go to lunch every day. He told me he knew an incredible soba shop, and he took me there, and it was so good that it’s been hard to ever eat soba again because nothing comes close.” They also found a tiny neighborhood sushi restaurant, and Jobs tagged it on his iPhone as “best sushi I’ve ever had.” Erin agreed.

They also visited Kyoto’s famous Zen Buddhist temples; the one Erin loved most was Saihō-ji, known as the “moss temple” because of its Golden Pond surrounded by gardens featuring more than a hundred varieties of moss. “Erin was really really happy, which was deeply gratifying and helped improve her relationship with her father,” Powell recalled. “She deserved that.”

Their younger daughter, Eve, was quite a different story. She was spunky, self-assured, and in no way intimidated by her father. Her passion was horseback riding, and she became determined to make it to the Olympics. When a coach told her how much work it would require, she replied, “Tell me exactly what I need to do. I will do it.” He did, and she began diligently following the program.

Eve was an expert at the difficult task of pinning her father down; she often called his assistant at work directly to make sure something got put on his calendar. She was also pretty good as a negotiator. One weekend in 2010, when the family was planning a trip, Erin wanted to delay the departure by half a day, but she was afraid to ask her father. Eve, then twelve, volunteered to take on the task, and at dinner she laid out the case to her father as if she were a lawyer before the Supreme Court. Jobs cut her off—“No, I don’t think I want to”—but it was clear that he was more amused than annoyed. Later that evening Eve sat down with her mother and deconstructed the various ways that she could have made her case better.

Jobs came to appreciate her spirit—and see a lot of himself in her. “She’s a pistol and has the strongest will of any kid I’ve ever met,” he said. “It’s like payback.” He had a deep understanding of her personality, perhaps because it bore some resemblance to his. “Eve is more sensitive than a lot of people think,” he explained. “She’s so smart that she can roll over people a bit, so that means she can alienate people, and she finds herself alone. She’s in the process of learning how to be who she is, but tempers it around the edges so that she can have the friends that she needs.”

Jobs’s relationship with his wife was sometimes complicated but always loyal. Savvy and compassionate, Laurene Powell was a stabilizing influence and an example of his ability to compensate for some of his selfish impulses by surrounding himself with strong-willed and sensible people. She weighed in quietly on business issues, firmly on family concerns, and fiercely on medical matters. Early in their marriage, she cofounded and launched College Track, a national after-school program that helps disadvantaged kids graduate from high school and get into college. Since then she had become a leading force in the education reform movement. Jobs professed an admiration for his wife’s work: “What she’s done with College Track really impresses me.” But he tended to be generally dismissive of philanthropic endeavors and never visited her after-school centers.

In February 2010 Jobs celebrated his fifty-fifth birthday with just his family. The kitchen was decorated with streamers and balloons, and his kids gave him a red-velvet toy crown, which he wore. Now that he had recovered from a grueling year of health problems, Powell hoped that he would become more attentive to his family. But for the most part he resumed his focus on his work. “I think it was hard on the family, especially the girls,” she told me. “After two years of him being ill, he finally gets a little better, and they expected he would focus a bit on them, but he didn’t.” She wanted to make sure, she said, that both sides of his personality were reflected in this book and put into context. “Like many great men whose gifts are extraordinary, he’s not extraordinary in every realm,” she said. “He doesn’t have social graces, such as putting himself in other people’s shoes, but he cares deeply about empowering humankind, the advancement of humankind, and putting the right tools in their hands.”

President Obama

On a trip to Washington in the early fall of 2010, Powell had met with some of her friends at the White House who told her that President Obama was going to Silicon Valley that October. She suggested that he might want to meet with her husband. Obama’s aides liked the idea; it fit into his new emphasis on competitiveness. In addition, John Doerr, the venture capitalist who had become one of Jobs’s close friends, had told a meeting of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board about Jobs’s views on why the United States was losing its edge. He too suggested that Obama should meet with Jobs. So a half hour was put on the president’s schedule for a session at the Westin San Francisco Airport.

There was one problem: When Powell told her husband, he said he didn’t want to do it. He was annoyed that she had arranged it behind his back. “I’m not going to get slotted in for a token meeting so that he can check off that he met with a CEO,” he told her. She insisted that Obama was “really psyched to meet with you.” Jobs replied that if that were the case, then Obama should call and personally ask for the meeting. The standoff went on for five days. She called in Reed, who was at Stanford, to come home for dinner and try to persuade his father. Jobs finally relented.

The meeting actually lasted forty-five minutes, and Jobs did not hold back. “You’re headed for a one-term presidency,” Jobs told Obama at the outset. To prevent that, he said, the administration needed to be a lot more business-friendly. He described how easy it was to build a factory in China, and said that it was almost impossible to do so these days in America, largely because of regulations and unnecessary costs.

Jobs also attacked America’s education system, saying that it was hopelessly antiquated and crippled by union work rules. Until the teachers’ unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform. Teachers should be treated as professionals, he said, not as industrial assembly-line workers. Principals should be able to hire and fire them based on how good they were. Schools should be staying open until at least 6 p.m. and be in session eleven months of the year. It was absurd, he added, that American classrooms were still based on teachers standing at a board and using textbooks. All books, learning materials, and assessments should be digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time.

Jobs offered to put together a group of six or seven CEOs who could really explain the innovation challenges facing America, and the president accepted. So Jobs made a list of people for a Washington meeting to be held in December. Unfortunately, after Valerie Jarrett and other presidential aides had added names, the list had expanded to more than twenty, with GE’s Jeffrey Immelt in the lead. Jobs sent Jarrett an email saying it was a bloated list and he had no intention of coming. In fact his health problems had flared anew by then, so he would not have been able to go in any case, as Doerr privately explained to the president.

In February 2011, Doerr began making plans to host a small dinner for President Obama in Silicon Valley. He and Jobs, along with their wives, went to dinner at Evvia, a Greek restaurant in Palo Alto, to draw up a tight guest list. The dozen chosen tech titans included Google’s Eric Schmidt, Yahoo’s Carol Bartz, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Cisco’s John Chambers, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, Genentech’s Art Levinson, and Netflix’s Reed Hastings. Jobs’s attention to the details of the dinner extended to the food. Doerr sent him the proposed menu, and he responded that some of the dishes proposed by the caterer—shrimp, cod, lentil salad—were far too fancy “and not who you are, John.” He particularly objected to the dessert that was planned, a cream pie tricked out with chocolate truffles, but the White House advance staff overruled him by telling the caterer that the president liked cream pie. Because Jobs had lost so much weight that he was easily chilled, Doerr kept the house so warm that Zuckerberg found himself sweating profusely.

Jobs, sitting next to the president, kicked off the dinner by saying, “Regardless of our political persuasions, I want you to know that we’re here to do whatever you ask to help our country.” Despite that, the dinner initially became a litany of suggestions of what the president could do for the businesses there. Chambers, for example, pushed a proposal for a repatriation tax holiday that would allow major corporations to avoid tax payments on overseas profits if they brought them back to the United States for investment during a certain period. The president was annoyed, and so was Zuckerberg, who turned to Valerie Jarrett, sitting to his right, and whispered, “We should be talking about what’s important to the country. Why is he just talking about what’s good for him?”

Doerr was able to refocus the discussion by calling on everyone to suggest a list of action items. When Jobs’s turn came, he stressed the need for more trained engineers and suggested that any foreign students who earned an engineering degree in the United States should be given a visa to stay in the country. Obama said that could be done only in the context of the “Dream Act,” which would allow illegal aliens who arrived as minors and finished high school to become legal residents—something that the Republicans had blocked. Jobs found this an annoying example of how politics can lead to paralysis. “The president is very smart, but he kept explaining to us reasons why things can’t get done,” he recalled. “It infuriates me.”

Jobs went on to urge that a way be found to train more American engineers. Apple had 700,000 factory workers employed in China, he said, and that was because it needed 30,000 engineers on-site to support those workers. “You can’t find that many in America to hire,” he said. These factory engineers did not have to be PhDs or geniuses; they simply needed to have basic engineering skills for manufacturing. Tech schools, community colleges, or trade schools could train them. “If you could educate these engineers,” he said, “we could move more manufacturing plants here.” The argument made a strong impression on the president. Two or three times over the next month he told his aides, “We’ve got to find ways to train those 30,000 manufacturing engineers that Jobs told us about.”

Jobs was pleased that Obama followed up, and they talked by telephone a few times after the meeting. He offered to help create Obama’s political ads for the 2012 campaign. (He had made the same offer in 2008, but he’d become annoyed when Obama’s strategist David Axelrod wasn’t totally deferential.) “I think political advertising is terrible. I’d love to get Lee Clow out of retirement, and we can come up with great commercials for him,” Jobs told me a few weeks after the dinner. Jobs had been fighting pain all week, but the talk of politics energized him. “Every once in a while, a real ad pro gets involved, the way Hal Riney did with ‘It’s morning in America’ for Reagan’s reelection in 1984. So that’s what I’d like to do for Obama.”

Third Medical Leave, 2011

The cancer always sent signals as it reappeared. Jobs had learned that. He would lose his appetite and begin to feel pains throughout his body. His doctors would do tests, detect nothing, and reassure him that he still seemed clear. But he knew better. The cancer had its signaling pathways, and a few months after he felt the signs the doctors would discover that it was indeed no longer in remission.

Another such downturn began in early November 2010. He was in pain, stopped eating, and had to be fed intravenously by a nurse who came to the house. The doctors found no sign of more tumors, and they assumed that this was just another of his periodic cycles of fighting infections and digestive maladies. He had never been one to suffer pain stoically, so his doctors and family had become somewhat inured to his complaints.

He and his family went to Kona Village for Thanksgiving, but his eating did not improve. The dining there was in a communal room, and the other guests pretended not to notice as Jobs, looking emaciated, rocked and moaned at meals, not touching his food. It was a testament to the resort and its guests that his condition never leaked out. When he returned to Palo Alto, Jobs became increasingly emotional and morose. He thought he was going to die, he told his kids, and he would get choked up about the possibility that he would never celebrate any more of their birthdays.

By Christmas he was down to 115 pounds, which was more than fifty pounds below his normal weight. Mona Simpson came to Palo Alto for the holiday, along with her ex-husband, the television comedy writer Richard Appel, and their children. The mood picked up a bit. The families played parlor games such as Novel, in which participants try to fool each other by seeing who can write the most convincing fake opening sentence to a book, and things seemed to be looking up for a while. He was even able to go out to dinner at a restaurant with Powell a few days after Christmas. The kids went off on a ski vacation for New Year’s, with Powell and Mona Simpson taking turns staying at home with Jobs in Palo Alto.

By the beginning of 2011, however, it was clear that this was not merely one of his bad patches. His doctors detected evidence of new tumors, and the cancer-related signaling further exacerbated his loss of appetite. They were struggling to determine how much drug therapy his body, in its emaciated condition, would be able to take. Every inch of his body felt like it had been punched, he told friends, as he moaned and sometimes doubled over in pain.

It was a vicious cycle. The first signs of cancer caused pain. The morphine and other painkillers he took suppressed his appetite. His pancreas had been partly removed and his liver had been replaced, so his digestive system was faulty and had trouble absorbing protein. Losing weight made it harder to embark on aggressive drug therapies. His emaciated condition also made him more susceptible to infections, as did the immunosuppressants he sometimes took to keep his body from rejecting his liver transplant. The weight loss reduced the lipid layers around his pain receptors, causing him to suffer more. And he was prone to extreme mood swings, marked by prolonged bouts of anger and depression, which further suppressed his appetite.

Jobs’s eating problems were exacerbated over the years by his psychological attitude toward food. When he was young, he learned that he could induce euphoria and ecstasy by fasting. So even though he knew that he should eat—his doctors were begging him to consume high-quality protein—lingering in the back of his subconscious, he admitted, was his instinct for fasting and for diets like Arnold Ehret’s fruit regimen that he had embraced as a teenager. Powell............
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