' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Like father, like son...John Jandali and Steve Jobs

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Like father, like son...John Jandali and Steve Jobs

Like father, like son ... John Jandali and Steve
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.

However, if a connection with your biological kin is what you desire, do not wait until death makes it impossible. Both adoptee and birth parent have the absolute right to search; this connection between parent and child is deeper than the legal maneuverings that led to sealed records, which someday will go the way of pantaloons and Prohibition. You might not like what you find, but you will have answers and the truth.

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 boy
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
If 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
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.


  1. "[I]f a connection with your biological kin is what you desire, do not wait until death makes it impossible."

    Amen to that Lorraine. A lot of people are burning daylight.

    Don't wait until it's too late.

  2. As an adoptee, it's so tough to see a first parent unable to, for whatever reason, reach out to their child. I'm so frightened on my end - will they want to know me? Will they like me? Will they have thought of me? Have they rejoiced or tortured themselves over my loss? There is seemingly no good outcome. Perhaps that is why, like Steve Jobs, I want to be the one who is sought out. It's like a bad break-up - you broke up with me, so why am I supposed to be the one to crawl back to you? (Forgive the inadvertant pun.) ;)

    Thanks for a lovely, thought-provoking post, as always.

  3. As a rejected mother, I often wonder, particularly since her father is deceased, if she realizes (my daughter) that time is a precious commodity and that rejection maybe easy for her now, but later it won't be so easy and it will be too late.

  4. "It's like a bad break-up - you broke up with me, so why am I supposed to be the one to crawl back to you?" ~Kristi

    Kristi, I wish I had a dollar for every argument I've heard over the past 40 years regarding whether natural mothers should be the ones to initiate the search...and whether we even have the right to search. A lot of us from the BSE were told verbatim that we didn't have the right to ever contact or even look for our children, even when they reached adulthood. Thank God, I ignored that admonition...and I was reunited face-to-face with my son a couple weeks after his 18th birthday. (He'll be turning 40 in several months.)

    I think a lot of nmoms are confused on this issue after reading adoptees' thoughts on different public forums. Some adoptees are infuriated when their natural parents find them and request contact. Others are enormously hurt when they discover that their mothers haven't signed up with any of the search/reunion registries. For that reason, I'm so grateful that I reunited with my son in the days before the Internet. I think I would have been scared to death if the Internet had been in place back in those years...I would have felt caught between a rock and a hard place. Does he want me to find him first, or does he want me to stay under my rock and never look for him? Do I...or don't I? The whole thing makes my head spin. There's just too many double-bind messages out there that natural moms are struggling with.

    By the way, I loved your "inadvertant pun." It made me laugh out loud!

    On the issue of Steve Jobs and his natural parents...I hesitate to pass judgment on who was right or if his father blew it. I've come to distrust the media in general because the stories are always so convoluted and sensationalized. My gut feeling is that we'll never know for sure what really happened between Steve and his father. If his father truly didn't reach out to Steve until it was too late because of his "Syrian pride," then shame on him. Life is waaaay too short to allow pride to come between any of us. This type of false pride has caused the downfall of many people throughout history.

    1. This is the best comment among the many great comments I have read so far. I really like your energy and sincerely and your courage to go against the grain ad discovered the truth is what you make of it. Stay positive and I love your comments on Steve's father and media in general.

  5. Thank you, Lorraine, for bringing up this point which bears repeating. None of us is here forever. Do not make assumptions about how the other person feels or what the other person thinks, if you have a desire to know your missing bio-kin then start searching. Regarding what Kristi said, I think we adoptees deserve kudos for our courage in searching for our first parents. From our vantage point it looks like we were rejected. I know that if I had not learned about the BSE and how mothers were pressured/coerced to surrender I probably never would have searched. And my nmother wanted to be found but she would not have searched for me because she assumed I would be furious and wouldn't speak to her.

    I wonder if further on down the road John Jondali will regret his decision when it sinks in that it really is too late. I agree that at least from the information the media is giving now that he made a big mistake letting his "Syrian pride" get in the way.

    I have to say that the whole pro-adoption angle to the Steve Jobs story has made my blood boil. What is so great about FORCING a couple to give their child up for adoption? Both parents have stated that they WANTED to raise their son. It seems the only "victory" here was for racism and small mindedness. On the flip side just think if Miss (no Ms. back then) Schieble and Mr. Jondali had followed the rules there might not be any Steve Jobs.

    I have not been able to leave comments at your blog but I wanted to thank you for your hilarious and accurate pie chart. It's the first time I've laughed over this whole story :)

  6. Hey--I'm missing the stories where the adoption is being credited as some great fact of Steve Jobs's life--that made him the genius he was. I know he credited his adoptive parents with raising him but I haven't read the tone of Oh, how wonderful his real parents didn't raise Steve Jobs. If you have seen stories with that bent, show me where. To me, the stories infer that his brains came from biology--two parents who were grad students at the University of Wisconsin. His blood sister, aclaimed author Mona Simpson, etc.


  7. I am one of those that was worried about disturbing my first mother's life. I got my OBC in the late 80s but thought I would leave it up to my first mother to make contact - I just assumed she was happily married with lots of children and had "moved on". I realise now of course that, as Raven said, many first mothers wouldn't have felt able to reach out and also they may felt the same way that I did.

    In my case, I discovered that my first mother had passed away long before contact would even have been possible - she was under 40and I would have been in high school. She was married but not for that long and she had no other living children. I like to think that if she lived, she would have made contact but also now realise there could have been many reasons why she might not have. I do sometimes wish I had at least tried to make contact back in the late 80s because I may have got to meet my grandmother. Also perhaps there might have been things belonging to my first mother still around (her widower may have some stuff but I've never felt able make contact - I don't think it would be fair to him). I am very lucky that there are lots of photos and that many people have fond memories of her but there are lots of little things I will probably never know about her.

    I suppose I can at least take some comfort in the fact that I was always going to be too late and that not making contact in the late 80s didn't make any difference in that regards. I am now in contact with extended family who are all lovely so am thankful for that.

  8. cb--lord knows what you would find if you contact your mother's widower, but you just night find someone who could tell you about your mother. Are there any blood relatives for you to contact? You do know that I reached out to my granddaughter that my daughter gave up for adoption, after my daughter died? And we have a wonderful relationship for which I am so grateful.

    good luck and hugs from here.

  9. Lorraine,
    What I was referring to is that there are many comments on the stories about Steve Jobs that talk about the fact that he was given up for adoption in glowing terms. No one was saying that his genius was from his a-parents only that adoption is always the perfect solution for an unplanned pregnancy. And how his first parents had made such a loving, selfless and heroic decision.

    My point was that his nparents had not wanted to give him up for adoption and should not have been forced to. They should have been allowed to keep him even if they didn't marry. The fact that he was given up for adoption is because he was a classic BSE baby, born to a white unwed mother in the 1950s. Many of the people commenting probably don't have a clue what the BSE was and how pregnant single women really did not have any choices.

    You wrote:"adoption is being credited as some great fact of Steve Jobs's life--that made him the genius he was."

    That wasn't what I was saying. I hope this clarifies my previous comment.

  10. Robin--


    Most people anywhere do not have a thoughtful clue about what it was like back in the day...or today, to give up a child. Some do, instinctively, of course. The fact of his parents' educational level being brought up all the time is indicative of a sense that biology is key.

    On another note, in reading some of the endless Amanda Knox coverage, I came across this factoid:

    The black man who may have committed the murder, Rudy Guede, was "a Dickensian character, a poor immigrant from Ivory Coast adopted, then rejected, by one of Perugia's richest families. His bloodied footprints had been found around Mr. Kercher's body, and he had been convicted before he Knox trail began." ...in the weeks before the murder, he had "broken into a nursery school, a law office and another apartment, in each case making himself at home...."

    I don't know what to make of it, except that this is a sad story. Adopted and then rejected...? Again?

  11. Lorraine,
    I am in touch with blood relatives - they are the extended family I was referring to, i.e. my uncles and cousins - I have no living siblings or grandparents. I have a good relationship with my uncles and cousins. I just think anything personal of hers would have been kept by either her mother or her husband. The uncles don't feel that I should contact the husband and I don't want to upset them.

  12. Kristie-I'm a nmother who did a passive search for my daughter. I could kick myself that I didn't do an active search when she was 18. I feel so weak. First I allowed the adults to presude me that my marital status was enough to loose my baby over. That even though I was warm, smart, kind, and nurturing it didn't matter because I was unmarried. This was in 1980, past the BSE.
    The ironic thing is really I was too damn strong. Once I ate their stupidity I forged ahead like a steamroller. Never stopping to realize how bad I missed my girl.
    I stayed up many nights looking for her online but didn't pull the trigger. Weak.
    Once found I welcomed her with open arms but she was already 29 and so much time had lapsed. I'm glad I was able to show her who I am. I'm just sorry I evr let her go.

  13. Sometimes your real father wants a relationship with you, but his "new wife" wishes you would disappear of the face of the earth.

  14. I have to agree with a previous poster that the internet can be a mixed blessing. I mean, it's great to be able to read first mother blogs and forums and hear how they feel but then I read blogs and forums by adoptees who have been rejected and it just gets depressing at times.

    However, I do try not to think what way my own reunion might have gone (if it had happened at all), it is a bit pointless.

    I have also grown to realise that whatever actions my first mother may have taken or whatever thoughts she may or may not have thought would have been reliant on her experiences and nothing to do with me so there is not much I can do about it. One can only live life as it is and that is what I'm doing.

    Anyway, it has been great getting to know new relatives and meeting other people over the last year and I have learnt a lot about myself and would never go back to "before" and not knowing anything at all.

  15. Oh cb...don't know what advice to give...it's the uncles who are keeping your secret, and don't want to alter their brother-in-law's concept of their sister with the news of you...maybe he knows, maybe he doesn't. I have a friend, acutally one of my husband's college buddies, who did find out who his natural parents were, but the only way he can contact his half siblings--who most likely do not know of him--is though the widow of his father...who was married to him at the time he was born.

    I can offer no solution. Since a totem of your mothers would mean a great deal to you, is it possible the uncles have something of your mothers themselves that they might share with you?

    Lord, how twisted this is. People who think blood doesn't matter ought to read your comments

    hugs to you, though I know they are inadequate--lorraine

  16. Yes, talk about being "brain-washed" from the BSE era - I didn't even know that I COULD look for my daughter. I started in 2004 - and didn't find her until she was 37... but I have no regrets finding her, even though she doesn't want a relationship with me "at this time". Just glad to know she had a good life!

  17. Thanks for the virtual hugs, Lorraine.

    Before I made contact with the family, I don't think I really felt that much about my first mother's death (which I discovered via the internet a good few years before making contact). It is that the more I learn about her (all pretty good btw), the more emotional I feel about it though I am coming out the other end and starting to feel more peaceful about it.

    As for the husband, it is just that it is like a jigsaw - there will always be some pieces missing. There are other reasons I don't feel OK about making contact with him that I won't go into too deeply here (he is terminally ill, also uncles have mixed feelings about him (I'm being diplomatic here lol) and they seem more concerned on my behalf than his)but that is something I will just have to accept.

    I know a lot of sadness I feel about fmom is to do with her young age and sadness for her re her other children rather than just the fact that I didn't meet her. I would rather for her sake and her family's sake that she was alive and not willing to see me than gone and not knowing either way.

    Btw I am otherwise a fairly content person as I'm sure the rest of us are - just in case anyone reads what I've said and thinks I'm some sort of sad sack lol.



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