|Jandali and Jobs|
Before his death earlier this week, Steve Jobs and his natural father never met, according to news reports. Abdulfattah "John" Jandali--Jobs's biological father--earlier expressed regret over having no relationship with his son and said that he hoped to meet him before he died, as Jane wrote about recently here.* But apparently his pride prevented him from picking up the phone and calling Jobs.
Jobs's natural parents, Syrian-born student Jandali and graduate student Joanne Schieble, married ten months after Jobs was given up for adoption in 1955, and had a daughter, the author Mona Simpson.
The couple, both 23 at the time Schieble became pregnant, were students at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, but Schieble's parents opposed the marriage, largely because Jandali was a Muslim Arab. Under pressure from her parents and hiding in shame, Schieble went to San Francisco to have the baby. Jandali has descrbied Schieble's father as a "tryant." It's a story we've heard many time here at First Mother Forum. The era, her parents' wishes, a demanding father...and a boy is given up for adoption in 1955.
It has not been made public how Jobs found his biological family or vice versa; we do know that Jandali and Schieble divorced, and Mona took her step-father's name. Jobs and Simpson, a full sister, became close and it was reported that they frequently talked on the phone, and that he invited his birth mother, Joanne Simpson, to some events. But apparently there was no rapprochement with his natural father. According to the International Business Times, Jandali was eager to meet his son, but said his "Syrian pride" stopped him from reaching out to Jobs himself:
"This might sound strange, though, but I am not prepared, even if either of us was on our deathbed, to pick up the phone to call him," Jandali told the Sun.
"Steve will have to do that as the Syrian pride in me does not want him ever to think I am after his fortune. I am not. I have my own money. What I don't have is my son ... and that saddens me."It is unclear how long Jandali, now a casino operator in Reno, knew who his son was; one report is that he only learned in the last year. In September, Jandali told the Reno Gazette-Journal that the interview in which he stated he would like to meet him was “a mistake,” perhaps because of the publicity it garnered and the attention focused on their non-relationship. When it became known that Jobs was ill with a rare form of pancreatic cancer, Jandali mailed him his medical history with the hope it might help his son, Jandali’s friends in Reno said in August.
But Jandali couldn't pick up the phone himself? I know that the world likes death-bed forgiveness and rapprochement, and while it usually works for the living, maybe it's not necessary to have a quiet death. If Jobs didn't make the phone call, I don't blame him at all. Personally, I think it's ridiculous--as well as sad--that Jandali's "Syrian pride" prevented him from calling his son, as far as we know and we assuredly don't have privy to last minute phone calls, but if Jandali didn't reach out to Jobs, Jandali's the loser here. From all reports Jobs--brilliant, mercurial, demanding, yes, a "tyrant" at work--was a prickly character in real life. In the end, he might not have taken the call. Too little, too late. But apparently Jandali will never know.
I know that some birth mothers reject reunion, and apparently it's more common when the parents marry, as Jobs's natural parents did, but unlike them, are still together at the time of contact. I can't quite wrap my mind around that concept. I suppose it's something to do with the male pride that Jandali represented, and it's sad, so very sad for the women who let themselves be imprisoned by that same pride. I think it also has to do with the father's guilt--for not being able to take care of offspring when they are born, and now, years later, having to own up to that. I wasn't there when you needed me. I think it has to do with the shame of having such a cavernous weakness exposed. And I can understand the complicated feelings that must emerge when the son you gave up goes on to be such a genius as Jobs was. Nonetheless....
At the ending of Jean Stauss's movie, Adopted: For the Life of Me, there is a moving scene with a older adoptee who didn't decide to search until he sat next to Jean on a plane. He was too late to meet his mother, but was given her scrapbook, a scrapbook that clearly showed she wished to know her son one day. He comes across this poem:
I want a boyIf anyone is writing such a poem in their heads, from either mother or child, what is the point of waiting? There is no point, only the infinite sadness of what might have been. --lorraine
A small boy, a not-so-very-tall boy,
A boy I can talk with,
And take a long walk with,
Then home again to chatter over
what we've seen,
I want a boy who needs me
As I need him. --lorraine
See: Single fathers today stay to raise their children
and Adopted: For the Life of Me illustrates how sealed records hurt
Also, if you haven't voted in the Demons of Adoption award, see previous blog.