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Dear Steve Jobs: A Letter From a Mother

In a letter written to the editor, a Patch reader shares her thoughts on Jobs' death, and that of her own son who loved all things Apple, and had received a letter of encouragement from Jobs.

Editor's note: The letter below begins as a letter to the editor, but as the writer reflects on how Steve Jobs affected her son, the letter morphs into a letter to Steve Jobs. It is a touching recount of how Jobs' death, as it ripples across the globe, brings home technology as it shrinks the world.

From Mercedes Duran:

This is not a suggestion or a news tip. It is just a personal memory of Steve Jobs from when the first Apple Macintosh(es) were sold in the US and Canada.

As soon as they were for sale my son Leon (born May 9, 1977, about the same age as Apple) mounted a relentless campaign about how "I" desperately needed one—which of course I "could" share with him and his younger sister for homework and such.

He was totally aware of who Steve Jobs was and of the difference between a Mac and any of the other PCs in the market then; the point was that IT HAD to be a Mac: "Much easier for you to understand, mom, really great for writing!"

It was, in essence, true, so I bought my (Leon's) first Mac late 1984 or early 1985 I think (and since then every single model you have built); within a week, Leon (then 7 or 8) had taken over the computer full time and proceeded to teach me "hands on" all about it, a habit which he kept throughout his life (and that in turn kept me on the verge of nervous breakdowns and heart attacks for decades, since he insisted on "repairing" any problems himself.)

But to the point: I believe that we had had that first computer no more than two or three months when he showed me an animation he had made with your "Hypercard" program: a little mouse running around, climbing walls, getting in and out of holes, and at some point climbing up the pants of, and being chased by, some sort of stick-man with a broom, I believe; I cannot quite remember the details, it was such a long time ago.

I do remember quite well that I was amazed: the animation was really cute, looked very professional, and I could not understand how he had done it.

"I am going to send it to Steve," he said, "I think he will like it."

"Fine," I said, "Great idea!" thinking that he was talking about a school friend.

How he managed it on those pre-email days is still a mystery to me, but a few weeks later Leon received a letter and a package from Steve Jobs.

Steve's letter thanked him for the program, which he (Steve) thought was great and, with Leon's permission, wanted to include it as a programming sample on the Hypercard packages that were sold with the computers.

He was very glad that Leon had understood the explanations that he had given him over the phone (???), and he thought that Leon was perhaps right in that the instructions were not as clear as they could be, which he planned to look into.

The letter ended with an invitation for Leon to look him (Steve) up when he finished high school, and stated that he (Leon) would always have a job at Apple.

It was signed "Your friend Steve" and written on the company's stationary; it was partly typed but partly by hand; he had added in one of the margins: "just ask for me", above the letter: "I hope that you will like what we sent you," and below the signature, as a PS: "come visit us if you ever are in California, I will like to meet you."

I am quite sure that the package contained every program, cable, pen, pencil, mouse, mouse pad, and/or decal that had been produced by Apple at that time—some of them not yet in the market, at least in Canada.

Leon was less surprised than his father and I were (amazed is perhaps a better word): he had already committed to Apple (I would have billions if I had bought Apple shares every time Leon told me to), but the incident started a life-long love affair with everything Apple for me.

I don't think there was a day in my son's life when he was not touching something Apple: listening to it, working on it, writing on it, experimenting on it, playing with it.

He worked as Apple support while he was still in high school. I could tell you a hundred anecdotes all involving—one way or another—your products; his life was totally intertwined with the life of Steve Jobs' company.

In fact, Leon's last words to me, just a couple of hours before he passed away almost three years ago (October 11) were about getting a new Powerbook: "...I know, I know, I KNOW, I don't reeeaaaally need one, but they are great! And they are also coming up with new iPods and iPhones; maybe we can have a look at both when I come back."

He was just 30 years old. And when Steve Jobs died I somehow felt as if my son had died all over again: I am not religious; I do not believe in any form of "life" after death, but the fact is that yesterday I found myself thinking "...well, they will keep each other company; Leon must have so much to ask him, he has missed three years. He will be happy to see him."

Please convey my sincere condolences to Steve Jobs family, and to the Apple family.

My very best regards, Mercedes

Mercedes Duran lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Mercedes F Duran October 11, 2011 at 12:45 AM
Many thanks, Anne. It has been a really strange day: by 7 AM I had received 14 emails (the Google era) from people that were touched by the story, and it is still going strong. In any event, I believe that it is a nice tribute to Steve to have been so incredibly important to so many while keeping intact his humanity, and to Leon, who loved Apple so much, to be known by those who shared his love. Thank you for caring! Mercedes
Laura G October 11, 2011 at 08:20 AM
Leon was a dear friend of my son's while they were at school together. They spent hours on the Mac computer and Leon's enthusiasm was infectious so, when we bought first course, of course, it was a Mac! Though we had a few years with a work-related PC, we are happily fully Apple now with iPhones, iPad, PowerBooks, iMacs. Thank you to Stephen Jobs for creating these beautiful, accessible tools and thank you to Leon for helping us see how amazing they could be for us! Laura
Mercedes F Duran October 11, 2011 at 08:07 PM
My heartfelt thanks to everyone that has sent me condolences and/or thank you notes. Please forgive me if it takes me a while to answer everyone of you, I have received so many. I am moved that Leon's brief interaction with Steve Jobs has resonated in so many hearts: I believe that when we grieve for Steve Jobs we are also grieving for the loss that all of those whose lives were touched by him have suffered: we grieve for all of us.
Nicole Baldocchi October 12, 2011 at 05:00 AM
As an Apple enthusiast myself, I thoroughly enjoyed this letter and experience this mother told of her son's life. It is awesome what a motivated and inspired child can accomplish with the right determination. And it is great to hear of ways that Jobs touched people individually, like this young man and his family. Thank you to the mom who shared this. I'm sorry for the loss of your son.
Mercedes F Duran October 12, 2011 at 08:03 AM
Thank you very much for your comment, it means a lot to me. Yes, it takes a motivated child, but also the means have to provide inspiration, and the feedback (from parents, teachers, and in this case Steve Jobs himself) has to be the right one: responding as he did he not only won me over, but through us countless others. Many thanks again for your sympathy and your comments. Mercedes

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