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 Saiho-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.