Lisa Brennan-Jobs on her father's lap in the Palo Alto home she shared with her mother, 1987.

T hree months before he died, I began to steal things from my father's
house. I wandered around barefoot and slipped objects into my pockets. I
took blush, toothpaste, two chipped finger bowls in celadon blue, a
bottle of nail polish, a pair of worn patent-leather ballet slippers,
and four faded white pillowcases the color of old teeth.

After stealing each item, I felt sated. I promised myself that this
would be the last time. But soon the urge to take something else would
arrive again like thirst.

I tiptoed into my father's room, careful to step over the creaky
floorboard at the entrance. This room had been his study, when he could
still climb the stairs, but he slept here now.

He was propped up in bed, wearing shorts. His legs were bare and thin as
arms, bent up like a grasshopper's.

"Hey, Lis," he said.

Segyu Rinpoche stood beside him. He'd been around recently when I came
to visit. A short Brazilian man with sparkling brown eyes, the Rinpoche
was a Buddhist monk with a scratchy voice who wore brown robes over a
round belly. We called him by his title. Near us, a black canvas bag of
nutrients hummed with a motor and a pump, the tube disappearing
somewhere under my father's sheets.

"It's a good idea to touch his feet," Rinpoche said, putting his hands
around my father's foot on the bed. "Like this."

I didn't know if the foot touching was supposed to be for my father, or
for me, or for both of us.

"Okay," I said, and took his other foot in its thick sock, even though
it was strange, watching my father's face, because when he winced in
pain or anger it looked similar to when he started to smile.

"That feels good," my father said, closing his eyes. I glanced at the
chest of drawers beside him and at the shelves on the other side of the
room for objects I wanted, even though I knew I wouldn't dare steal
something right in front of him.

While he slept, I wandered through the house, looking for I didn't know
what. The house was quiet, the sounds muffled. The terra-cotta floor was
cool on my feet except in the places where the sun had warmed it to the
temperature of skin.

In the cabinet of the half bath near the kitchen, where there used to be
a tattered copy of the Bhagavad Gita, I found a bottle of expensive rose
facial mist. With the door closed, the light out, sitting on the toilet
seat, I sprayed it up into the air and closed my eyes. The mist fell
around me, cool and holy, as in a forest or an old stone church.

Later, I would put everything back. But now, between avoiding the
housekeeper, my brother and sisters, and my stepmother around the house
so I wouldn't be caught stealing things or hurt when they didn't
acknowledge me or reply to my hellos, and spraying myself in the
darkened bathroom to feel less like I was disappearing—because inside
the falling mist I had a sense of having an outline again—making
efforts to see my sick father in his room began to feel like a burden, a
nuisance.

For the past year I'd visited for a weekend every other month or so.

I'd given up on the possibility of a grand reconciliation, the kind in
the movies, but I kept coming anyway.

Before I said good-bye, I went to the bathroom to mist one more time.
The spray was natural, which meant that over the course of a few minutes
it no longer smelled sharp like roses, but fetid and stinky like a
swamp, although I didn't realize it at the time.

As I came into his room, he was getting into a standing position. I
watched him gather both his legs in one arm, twist himself 90 degrees by
pushing against the headboard with the other arm, and then use both arms
to hoist his own legs over the edge of the bed and onto the floor. When
we hugged, I could feel his vertebrae, his ribs. He smelled musty, like
medicine sweat.

"I'll be back soon," I said.

We detached, and I started walking away.

"Lis?"

"Yeah?"

"You smell like a toilet."

In the spring of 1978, when my parents were 23, my mother gave birth to
me on their friend Robert's farm in Oregon, with the help of two
midwives. The labor and delivery took three hours, start to finish. My
father arrived a few days later. "It's not my kid," he kept telling
everyone at the farm, but he'd flown there to meet me anyway. I had
black hair and a big nose, and Robert said, "She sure looks like you."

My parents took me out into a field, laid me on a blanket, and looked
through the pages of a baby-name book. He wanted to name me Claire. They
went through several names but couldn't agree. They didn't want
something derivative, a shorter version of a longer name.

Top, Lisa with her mother, in Saratoga, California, 1981; Bottom, Lisa with her father, three days after she was born, 1978.

"What about Lisa?" my mother finally said.

"Yes. That one," he said happily.

He left the next day.

"Isn't Lisa short for Elizabeth?" I asked my mother. "No. We looked
it up. It's a separate name." "And why did you let him help name me
when he was pretending he wasn't the father?" "Because he was your
father," she said.

During the time my mother was pregnant, my father started work on a
computer that would later be called the Lisa. It was the precursor to
the Macintosh, the first mass-market computer with an external
mouse—the mouse as large as a block of cheese. But it was too
expensive, a commercial failure; my father began on the team working for
it, but then started working against it, competing against it, on the
Mac team. The Lisa computer was discontinued, the 3,000 unsold computers
later buried in a landfill in Logan, Utah.

Until I was two, my mother supplemented her welfare payments by cleaning
houses and waitressing. My father didn't help. She found babysitting at
a day-care center inside a church run by the minister's wife, and for a
few months we lived in a room in a house that my mother had found on a
notice board meant for women considering adoption.

Then, in 1980, the district attorney of San Mateo County, California,
sued my father for child-support payments. My father responded by
denying paternity, swearing in a deposition that he was sterile and
naming another man he said was my father.

I was required to take a DNA test. The tests were new then, and when the
results came back, they gave the odds that we were related as the
highest the instruments could measure at the time: 94.4 percent. The
court required my father to cover welfare back payments, child-support
payments of $385 per month, which he increased to $500, and medical
insurance until I was 18. The case was finalized on December 8, 1980,
with my father's lawyers insistent to close. Four days later Apple went
public and overnight my father was worth more than $200 million.

But before that, just after the court case was finalized, my father came
to visit me once at our house in Menlo Park, where we had rented a
detached studio. It was the first time I'd seen him since I'd been a
newborn in Oregon.

"You know who I am?" he asked. He flipped his hair out of his eyes.

I was three years old; I didn't.

"I'm your father." ("Like he was Darth Vader," my mother said later,
when she told me the story.)

"I'm one of the most important people you will ever know," he said.

By the time I was seven, my mother and I had moved 13 times. We rented
spaces informally, staying in a friend's furnished bedroom here, a
temporary sublet there. My father had started dropping by sometimes,
about once a month, and he, my mother, and I would go roller-skating
around the neighborhood. His engine shuddered into our driveway, echoing
off our house and the wooden fence on the other side, thickening the air
with excitement. He drove a black Porsche convertible. When he stopped,
the sound turned into a whine and then was extinguished, leaving the
quiet more quiet, the pinpoint sounds of birds.

I anticipated his arrival, wondering when it would happen, and thought
about him afterward—but in his presence, for the hour or so we were
all together, there was a strange blankness, like the air after his
engine switched off. He didn't talk much. There were long pauses, the
thunk and whir of roller skates on pavement.

We skated the neighborhood streets. Trees overhead made patterns of the
light. Fuchsia dangled from bushes in yards, stamens below a bell of
petals, like women in ball gowns with purple shoes. My father and mother
had the same skates, a beige nubuck body with red laces crisscrossed
over a double line of metal fasts. As we passed bushes in other people's
yards, he pulled clumps of leaves off the stems, then dropped the
fragments as we skated, making a line of ripped leaves behind us on the
pavement like Hansel and Gretel. A few times, I felt his eyes on me;
when I looked up, he looked away.

After he left, we talked about him.

"Why do his jeans have holes all over?" I asked my mother. He might
have sewn them up. I knew he was supposed to have millions of dollars.
We didn't just say "millionaire" but "multi-millionaire" when we
spoke of him, because it was accurate, and because knowing the granular
details made us part of it.

She said my father had a lisp. "It's something to do with his teeth,"
she said. "They hit each other exactly straight on, and over the years
they cracked and chipped where they hit, so the top and bottom teeth
meet, with no spaces. It looks like a zigzag, or a zipper."

For him, I was a blot on a spectacular ascent. For me, it was the
opposite.

"And he has these strangely flat palms," she said.

I assigned mystical qualities to his zipper teeth, his tattered jeans,
his flat palms, as if these were not only different from other fathers'
but better, and now that he was in my life, even if it was only once a
month, I had not waited in vain. I would be better off than children
who'd had fathers all along.

"I heard when it gets a scratch, he buys a new one," I overheard my
mother say to her boyfriend Ron.

"A new what?" I asked.

"Porsche."

"Couldn't he just paint over the scratch?" I asked.

"Car paint doesn't work like that," Ron said to me. "You can't just
paint over black with black; it wouldn't blend. There are thousands of
different blacks. They'd have to repaint the whole thing."

The next time my father came over, I wondered if it was the same car
he'd been driving the last time, or if it was a new one that just looked
the same.

"I have a secret," I said to my new friends at school. I whispered it
so that they would see I was reluctant to mention it. The key, I felt,
was to underplay. "My father is Steve Jobs."

"Who's that?" one asked.

"He's famous," I said. "He invented the personal computer. He lives
in a mansion and drives a Porsche convertible. He buys a new one every
time it gets a scratch."

The story had a film of unreality to it as I said it, even to my own
ears. I hadn't hung out with him that much, only a few skates and
visits. I didn't have the clothes or the bike someone with a father like
this would have.

"He even named a computer after me," I said to them.

"What computer?" a girl asked.

"The Lisa," I said.

"A computer called the Lisa?" she said. "I never heard of it."

"It was ahead of its time." I used my mother's phrase, although I
wasn't sure why it was ahead. I brought it up when I felt I needed to,
waited as long as I could and then let it burst forth. I don't remember
feeling at a disadvantage with my friends who had fathers, only that
there was at my fingertips another magical identity, an extra thing that
started to itch and tingle when I felt small, and it was like pressure
building inside me, and then I had to find a way to say it.

The author, photographed at home in Brooklyn.

One afternoon around this time my father brought over a Macintosh
computer. He pulled the box out of the backseat and carried it into my
room and put it on the floor. "Let's see," he said. "How do we open
it?" As if he didn't know. This made me doubt he was the inventor. He
pulled the computer out of the box by a handle on the top and set it on
the floor near the outlet on the wall. "I guess we plug this in." He
held the cord loose like it was unfamiliar.

He sat on the floor in front of it with his legs crossed; I sat on my
knees beside him. He looked for the On switch, found it, and the machine
came alive to reveal a picture of itself in the center, smiling. He
showed me how I could draw and save my drawings on the desktop once I
was finished with them, and then he left.

He didn't mention the other one, the Lisa. I worried that he had not
really named a computer after me, that it was a mistake.

For a long time I hoped that if I played one role, my father would take
the corresponding role. I would be the beloved daughter; he would be the
indulgent father. I decided that if I acted like other daughters did, he
would join in the lark. We'd pretend together, and in pretending we'd
make it real. If I had observed him as he was, or admitted to myself
what I saw, I would have known that he would not do this, and that a
game of pretend would disgust him.

Later that year, I would stay overnight at my father's house on several
Wednesdays while my mother took college classes in San Francisco. On
those nights, we ate dinner, took a hot tub outside, and watched old
movies. During the car rides to his house, he didn't talk.

"Can I have it when you're done?"I asked him one night, as we took a
left at the leaning, crumbling white pillars that flanked the thin,
bumpy road ending at his gate. I'd been thinking about it for a while
but had only just built up the courage to ask.

"Can you have what?" he said.

"This car. Your Porsche." I wondered where he put the extras. I
pictured them in a shiny black line at the back of his land.

"Absolutely not," he said in such a sour, biting way that I knew I'd
made a mistake. I understood that perhaps it wasn't true, the myth of
the scratch: maybe he didn't buy new ones. By that time I knew he was
not generous with money, or food, or words; the idea of the Porsches had
seemed like one glorious exception.

I wished I could take it back. We pulled up to the house and he turned
off the engine. Before I made a move to get out he turned to face me.

"You're not getting anything," he said. "You understand? Nothing.
You're getting nothing." Did he mean about the car, something else,
bigger? I didn't know. His voice hurt—sharp, in my chest.

The light was cool in the car, a white light on the roof had lit up when
the car turned off. Around us was dark. I had made a terrible mistake
and he'd recoiled.

By then the idea that he'd named the failed computer after me was woven
in with my sense of self, even if he did not confirm it, and I used this
story to bolster myself when, near him, I felt like nothing. I didn't
care about computers—they were made of fixed metal parts and chips
with glinting lines inside plastic cases—but I liked the idea that I
was connected to him in this way. It would mean I'd been chosen and had
a place, despite the fact that he was aloof or absent. It meant I was
fastened to the earth and its machines. He was famous; he drove a
Porsche. If the Lisa was named after me, I was a part of all that.

I see now that we were at cross-purposes. For him, I was a blot on a
spectacular ascent, as our story did not fit with the narrative of
greatness and virtue he might have wanted for himself. My existence
ruined his streak. For me, it was the opposite: the closer I was to him,
the less I would feel ashamed; he was part of the world, and he would
accelerate me into the light.

It might all have been a big misunderstanding, a missed connection: he'd
simply forgotten to mention the computer was named after me. I was
shaking with the need to set it right all at once, as if waiting for a
person to arrive for their surprise party—to switch on the lights and
yell out what I'd held in.

"Hey, you know that computer, the Lisa? Was it named after me?" I
asked many years later, when I was in high school and splitting my time
between my parents' houses. I tried to sound like I was curious, nothing
more.

If he would just give me this one thing.

"Nope." His voice was clipped, dismissive. Like I was fishing for a
compliment. "Sorry, kid."

When I was 27, my father invited me to join for a few days on a yacht
trip that he, my stepmother, my siblings, and the babysitter were taking
in the Mediterranean. He didn't usually invite me on vacations. I went
for a long weekend.

Off the coast of the South of France my father said we were going to
make a stop in the Alpes-Maritimes to meet a friend for lunch. He
wouldn't say who the friend was. We took a boat to the dock, where a van
picked us up and drove us to a lunch at a villa in Èze.

It turned out to be Bono's villa. He met us out front wearing jeans, a
T-shirt, and the same sunglasses I'd seen him wearing in pictures and on
album covers.

He gave us an exuberant tour of his house, as if he couldn't quite
believe it was his. The windows faced the Mediterranean, and the rooms
were cluttered with children's things. In an empty, light-filled
octagonal room, he said, Gandhi had once slept.

We had lunch on a large covered balcony overlooking the sea. Bono asked
my father about the beginning of Apple. Did the team feel alive? Did
they sense it was something big and they were going to change the world?
My father said it did feel that way as they were making the Macintosh,
and Bono said it was that way for him and the band, too, and wasn't it
incredible that people in such disparate fields could have the same
experience? Then Bono asked, "So, was the Lisa computer named after
her?"

There was a pause. I braced myself—prepared for his answer.

My father hesitated, looked down at his plate for a long moment, and
then back at Bono. "Yeah, it was," he said.

I sat up in my chair.

"I thought so," Bono said.

"Yup," my father said.

I studied my father's face. What had changed? Why had he admitted it
now, after all these years? Of course it was named after me, I thought
then. His lie seemed preposterous now. I felt a new power that pulled my
chest up.

"That's the first time he's said yes," I told Bono. "Thank you for
asking." As if famous people needed other famous people around to
release their secrets.

Adapted from Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, to be published September 4, 2018, by Grove Press. © 2018 by the author.

Lisa Brennan-Jobs on her father's lap in the Palo Alto home she shared with her mother, 1987.

T hree months before he died, I began to steal things from my father's
house. I wandered around barefoot and slipped objects into my pockets. I
took blush, toothpaste, two chipped finger bowls in celadon blue, a
bottle of nail polish, a pair of worn patent-leather ballet slippers,
and four faded white pillowcases the color of old teeth.

After stealing each item, I felt sated. I promised myself that this
would be the last time. But soon the urge to take something else would
arrive again like thirst.

I tiptoed into my father's room, careful to step over the creaky
floorboard at the entrance. This room had been his study, when he could
still climb the stairs, but he slept here now.

He was propped up in bed, wearing shorts. His legs were bare and thin as
arms, bent up like a grasshopper's.

"Hey, Lis," he said.

Segyu Rinpoche stood beside him. He'd been around recently when I came
to visit. A short Brazilian man with sparkling brown eyes, the Rinpoche
was a Buddhist monk with a scratchy voice who wore brown robes over a
round belly. We called him by his title. Near us, a black canvas bag of
nutrients hummed with a motor and a pump, the tube disappearing
somewhere under my father's sheets.

"It's a good idea to touch his feet," Rinpoche said, putting his hands
around my father's foot on the bed. "Like this."

I didn't know if the foot touching was supposed to be for my father, or
for me, or for both of us.

"Okay," I said, and took his other foot in its thick sock, even though
it was strange, watching my father's face, because when he winced in
pain or anger it looked similar to when he started to smile.

"That feels good," my father said, closing his eyes. I glanced at the
chest of drawers beside him and at the shelves on the other side of the
room for objects I wanted, even though I knew I wouldn't dare steal
something right in front of him.

While he slept, I wandered through the house, looking for I didn't know
what. The house was quiet, the sounds muffled. The terra-cotta floor was
cool on my feet except in the places where the sun had warmed it to the
temperature of skin.

In the cabinet of the half bath near the kitchen, where there used to be
a tattered copy of the Bhagavad Gita, I found a bottle of expensive rose
facial mist. With the door closed, the light out, sitting on the toilet
seat, I sprayed it up into the air and closed my eyes. The mist fell
around me, cool and holy, as in a forest or an old stone church.

Later, I would put everything back. But now, between avoiding the
housekeeper, my brother and sisters, and my stepmother around the house
so I wouldn't be caught stealing things or hurt when they didn't
acknowledge me or reply to my hellos, and spraying myself in the
darkened bathroom to feel less like I was disappearing—because inside
the falling mist I had a sense of having an outline again—making
efforts to see my sick father in his room began to feel like a burden, a
nuisance.

For the past year I'd visited for a weekend every other month or so.

I'd given up on the possibility of a grand reconciliation, the kind in
the movies, but I kept coming anyway.

Before I said good-bye, I went to the bathroom to mist one more time.
The spray was natural, which meant that over the course of a few minutes
it no longer smelled sharp like roses, but fetid and stinky like a
swamp, although I didn't realize it at the time.

As I came into his room, he was getting into a standing position. I
watched him gather both his legs in one arm, twist himself 90 degrees by
pushing against the headboard with the other arm, and then use both arms
to hoist his own legs over the edge of the bed and onto the floor. When
we hugged, I could feel his vertebrae, his ribs. He smelled musty, like
medicine sweat.

"I'll be back soon," I said.

We detached, and I started walking away.

"Lis?"

"Yeah?"

"You smell like a toilet."

In the spring of 1978, when my parents were 23, my mother gave birth to
me on their friend Robert's farm in Oregon, with the help of two
midwives. The labor and delivery took three hours, start to finish. My
father arrived a few days later. "It's not my kid," he kept telling
everyone at the farm, but he'd flown there to meet me anyway. I had
black hair and a big nose, and Robert said, "She sure looks like you."

My parents took me out into a field, laid me on a blanket, and looked
through the pages of a baby-name book. He wanted to name me Claire. They
went through several names but couldn't agree. They didn't want
something derivative, a shorter version of a longer name.

Top, Lisa with her mother, in Saratoga, California, 1981; Bottom, Lisa with her father, three days after she was born, 1978.

"What about Lisa?" my mother finally said.

"Yes. That one," he said happily.

He left the next day.

"Isn't Lisa short for Elizabeth?" I asked my mother. "No. We looked
it up. It's a separate name." "And why did you let him help name me
when he was pretending he wasn't the father?" "Because he was your
father," she said.

During the time my mother was pregnant, my father started work on a
computer that would later be called the Lisa. It was the precursor to
the Macintosh, the first mass-market computer with an external
mouse—the mouse as large as a block of cheese. But it was too
expensive, a commercial failure; my father began on the team working for
it, but then started working against it, competing against it, on the
Mac team. The Lisa computer was discontinued, the 3,000 unsold computers
later buried in a landfill in Logan, Utah.

Until I was two, my mother supplemented her welfare payments by cleaning
houses and waitressing. My father didn't help. She found babysitting at
a day-care center inside a church run by the minister's wife, and for a
few months we lived in a room in a house that my mother had found on a
notice board meant for women considering adoption.

Then, in 1980, the district attorney of San Mateo County, California,
sued my father for child-support payments. My father responded by
denying paternity, swearing in a deposition that he was sterile and
naming another man he said was my father.

I was required to take a DNA test. The tests were new then, and when the
results came back, they gave the odds that we were related as the
highest the instruments could measure at the time: 94.4 percent. The
court required my father to cover welfare back payments, child-support
payments of $385 per month, which he increased to $500, and medical
insurance until I was 18. The case was finalized on December 8, 1980,
with my father's lawyers insistent to close. Four days later Apple went
public and overnight my father was worth more than $200 million.

But before that, just after the court case was finalized, my father came
to visit me once at our house in Menlo Park, where we had rented a
detached studio. It was the first time I'd seen him since I'd been a
newborn in Oregon.

"You know who I am?" he asked. He flipped his hair out of his eyes.

I was three years old; I didn't.

"I'm your father." ("Like he was Darth Vader," my mother said later,
when she told me the story.)

"I'm one of the most important people you will ever know," he said.

By the time I was seven, my mother and I had moved 13 times. We rented
spaces informally, staying in a friend's furnished bedroom here, a
temporary sublet there. My father had started dropping by sometimes,
about once a month, and he, my mother, and I would go roller-skating
around the neighborhood. His engine shuddered into our driveway, echoing
off our house and the wooden fence on the other side, thickening the air
with excitement. He drove a black Porsche convertible. When he stopped,
the sound turned into a whine and then was extinguished, leaving the
quiet more quiet, the pinpoint sounds of birds.

I anticipated his arrival, wondering when it would happen, and thought
about him afterward—but in his presence, for the hour or so we were
all together, there was a strange blankness, like the air after his
engine switched off. He didn't talk much. There were long pauses, the
thunk and whir of roller skates on pavement.

We skated the neighborhood streets. Trees overhead made patterns of the
light. Fuchsia dangled from bushes in yards, stamens below a bell of
petals, like women in ball gowns with purple shoes. My father and mother
had the same skates, a beige nubuck body with red laces crisscrossed
over a double line of metal fasts. As we passed bushes in other people's
yards, he pulled clumps of leaves off the stems, then dropped the
fragments as we skated, making a line of ripped leaves behind us on the
pavement like Hansel and Gretel. A few times, I felt his eyes on me;
when I looked up, he looked away.

After he left, we talked about him.

"Why do his jeans have holes all over?" I asked my mother. He might
have sewn them up. I knew he was supposed to have millions of dollars.
We didn't just say "millionaire" but "multi-millionaire" when we
spoke of him, because it was accurate, and because knowing the granular
details made us part of it.

She said my father had a lisp. "It's something to do with his teeth,"
she said. "They hit each other exactly straight on, and over the years
they cracked and chipped where they hit, so the top and bottom teeth
meet, with no spaces. It looks like a zigzag, or a zipper."

For him, I was a blot on a spectacular ascent. For me, it was the
opposite.

"And he has these strangely flat palms," she said.

I assigned mystical qualities to his zipper teeth, his tattered jeans,
his flat palms, as if these were not only different from other fathers'
but better, and now that he was in my life, even if it was only once a
month, I had not waited in vain. I would be better off than children
who'd had fathers all along.

"I heard when it gets a scratch, he buys a new one," I overheard my
mother say to her boyfriend Ron.

"A new what?" I asked.

"Porsche."

"Couldn't he just paint over the scratch?" I asked.

"Car paint doesn't work like that," Ron said to me. "You can't just
paint over black with black; it wouldn't blend. There are thousands of
different blacks. They'd have to repaint the whole thing."

The next time my father came over, I wondered if it was the same car
he'd been driving the last time, or if it was a new one that just looked
the same.

"I have a secret," I said to my new friends at school. I whispered it
so that they would see I was reluctant to mention it. The key, I felt,
was to underplay. "My father is Steve Jobs."

"Who's that?" one asked.

"He's famous," I said. "He invented the personal computer. He lives
in a mansion and drives a Porsche convertible. He buys a new one every
time it gets a scratch."

The story had a film of unreality to it as I said it, even to my own
ears. I hadn't hung out with him that much, only a few skates and
visits. I didn't have the clothes or the bike someone with a father like
this would have.

"He even named a computer after me," I said to them.

"What computer?" a girl asked.

"The Lisa," I said.

"A computer called the Lisa?" she said. "I never heard of it."

"It was ahead of its time." I used my mother's phrase, although I
wasn't sure why it was ahead. I brought it up when I felt I needed to,
waited as long as I could and then let it burst forth. I don't remember
feeling at a disadvantage with my friends who had fathers, only that
there was at my fingertips another magical identity, an extra thing that
started to itch and tingle when I felt small, and it was like pressure
building inside me, and then I had to find a way to say it.

The author, photographed at home in Brooklyn.

One afternoon around this time my father brought over a Macintosh
computer. He pulled the box out of the backseat and carried it into my
room and put it on the floor. "Let's see," he said. "How do we open
it?" As if he didn't know. This made me doubt he was the inventor. He
pulled the computer out of the box by a handle on the top and set it on
the floor near the outlet on the wall. "I guess we plug this in." He
held the cord loose like it was unfamiliar.

He sat on the floor in front of it with his legs crossed; I sat on my
knees beside him. He looked for the On switch, found it, and the machine
came alive to reveal a picture of itself in the center, smiling. He
showed me how I could draw and save my drawings on the desktop once I
was finished with them, and then he left.

He didn't mention the other one, the Lisa. I worried that he had not
really named a computer after me, that it was a mistake.

For a long time I hoped that if I played one role, my father would take
the corresponding role. I would be the beloved daughter; he would be the
indulgent father. I decided that if I acted like other daughters did, he
would join in the lark. We'd pretend together, and in pretending we'd
make it real. If I had observed him as he was, or admitted to myself
what I saw, I would have known that he would not do this, and that a
game of pretend would disgust him.

Later that year, I would stay overnight at my father's house on several
Wednesdays while my mother took college classes in San Francisco. On
those nights, we ate dinner, took a hot tub outside, and watched old
movies. During the car rides to his house, he didn't talk.

"Can I have it when you're done?"I asked him one night, as we took a
left at the leaning, crumbling white pillars that flanked the thin,
bumpy road ending at his gate. I'd been thinking about it for a while
but had only just built up the courage to ask.

"Can you have what?" he said.

"This car. Your Porsche." I wondered where he put the extras. I
pictured them in a shiny black line at the back of his land.

"Absolutely not," he said in such a sour, biting way that I knew I'd
made a mistake. I understood that perhaps it wasn't true, the myth of
the scratch: maybe he didn't buy new ones. By that time I knew he was
not generous with money, or food, or words; the idea of the Porsches had
seemed like one glorious exception.

I wished I could take it back. We pulled up to the house and he turned
off the engine. Before I made a move to get out he turned to face me.

"You're not getting anything," he said. "You understand? Nothing.
You're getting nothing." Did he mean about the car, something else,
bigger? I didn't know. His voice hurt—sharp, in my chest.

The light was cool in the car, a white light on the roof had lit up when
the car turned off. Around us was dark. I had made a terrible mistake
and he'd recoiled.

By then the idea that he'd named the failed computer after me was woven
in with my sense of self, even if he did not confirm it, and I used this
story to bolster myself when, near him, I felt like nothing. I didn't
care about computers—they were made of fixed metal parts and chips
with glinting lines inside plastic cases—but I liked the idea that I
was connected to him in this way. It would mean I'd been chosen and had
a place, despite the fact that he was aloof or absent. It meant I was
fastened to the earth and its machines. He was famous; he drove a
Porsche. If the Lisa was named after me, I was a part of all that.

I see now that we were at cross-purposes. For him, I was a blot on a
spectacular ascent, as our story did not fit with the narrative of
greatness and virtue he might have wanted for himself. My existence
ruined his streak. For me, it was the opposite: the closer I was to him,
the less I would feel ashamed; he was part of the world, and he would
accelerate me into the light.

It might all have been a big misunderstanding, a missed connection: he'd
simply forgotten to mention the computer was named after me. I was
shaking with the need to set it right all at once, as if waiting for a
person to arrive for their surprise party—to switch on the lights and
yell out what I'd held in.

"Hey, you know that computer, the Lisa? Was it named after me?" I
asked many years later, when I was in high school and splitting my time
between my parents' houses. I tried to sound like I was curious, nothing
more.

If he would just give me this one thing.

"Nope." His voice was clipped, dismissive. Like I was fishing for a
compliment. "Sorry, kid."

When I was 27, my father invited me to join for a few days on a yacht
trip that he, my stepmother, my siblings, and the babysitter were taking
in the Mediterranean. He didn't usually invite me on vacations. I went
for a long weekend.

Off the coast of the South of France my father said we were going to
make a stop in the Alpes-Maritimes to meet a friend for lunch. He
wouldn't say who the friend was. We took a boat to the dock, where a van
picked us up and drove us to a lunch at a villa in Èze.

It turned out to be Bono's villa. He met us out front wearing jeans, a
T-shirt, and the same sunglasses I'd seen him wearing in pictures and on
album covers.

He gave us an exuberant tour of his house, as if he couldn't quite
believe it was his. The windows faced the Mediterranean, and the rooms
were cluttered with children's things. In an empty, light-filled
octagonal room, he said, Gandhi had once slept.

We had lunch on a large covered balcony overlooking the sea. Bono asked
my father about the beginning of Apple. Did the team feel alive? Did
they sense it was something big and they were going to change the world?
My father said it did feel that way as they were making the Macintosh,
and Bono said it was that way for him and the band, too, and wasn't it
incredible that people in such disparate fields could have the same
experience? Then Bono asked, "So, was the Lisa computer named after
her?"

There was a pause. I braced myself—prepared for his answer.

My father hesitated, looked down at his plate for a long moment, and
then back at Bono. "Yeah, it was," he said.

I sat up in my chair.

"I thought so," Bono said.

"Yup," my father said.

I studied my father's face. What had changed? Why had he admitted it
now, after all these years? Of course it was named after me, I thought
then. His lie seemed preposterous now. I felt a new power that pulled my
chest up.

"That's the first time he's said yes," I told Bono. "Thank you for
asking." As if famous people needed other famous people around to
release their secrets.

Adapted from Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, to be published September 4, 2018, by Grove Press. © 2018 by the author.

Lisa Brennan-Jobs on her father's lap in the Palo Alto home she shared with her mother, 1987.

T hree months before he died, I began to steal things from my father's
house. I wandered around barefoot and slipped objects into my pockets. I
took blush, toothpaste, two chipped finger bowls in celadon blue, a
bottle of nail polish, a pair of worn patent-leather ballet slippers,
and four faded white pillowcases the color of old teeth.

After stealing each item, I felt sated. I promised myself that this
would be the last time. But soon the urge to take something else would
arrive again like thirst.

I tiptoed into my father's room, careful to step over the creaky
floorboard at the entrance. This room had been his study, when he could
still climb the stairs, but he slept here now.

He was propped up in bed, wearing shorts. His legs were bare and thin as
arms, bent up like a grasshopper's.

"Hey, Lis," he said.

Segyu Rinpoche stood beside him. He'd been around recently when I came
to visit. A short Brazilian man with sparkling brown eyes, the Rinpoche
was a Buddhist monk with a scratchy voice who wore brown robes over a
round belly. We called him by his title. Near us, a black canvas bag of
nutrients hummed with a motor and a pump, the tube disappearing
somewhere under my father's sheets.

"It's a good idea to touch his feet," Rinpoche said, putting his hands
around my father's foot on the bed. "Like this."

I didn't know if the foot touching was supposed to be for my father, or
for me, or for both of us.

"Okay," I said, and took his other foot in its thick sock, even though
it was strange, watching my father's face, because when he winced in
pain or anger it looked similar to when he started to smile.

"That feels good," my father said, closing his eyes. I glanced at the
chest of drawers beside him and at the shelves on the other side of the
room for objects I wanted, even though I knew I wouldn't dare steal
something right in front of him.

While he slept, I wandered through the house, looking for I didn't know
what. The house was quiet, the sounds muffled. The terra-cotta floor was
cool on my feet except in the places where the sun had warmed it to the
temperature of skin.

In the cabinet of the half bath near the kitchen, where there used to be
a tattered copy of the Bhagavad Gita, I found a bottle of expensive rose
facial mist. With the door closed, the light out, sitting on the toilet
seat, I sprayed it up into the air and closed my eyes. The mist fell
around me, cool and holy, as in a forest or an old stone church.

Later, I would put everything back. But now, between avoiding the
housekeeper, my brother and sisters, and my stepmother around the house
so I wouldn't be caught stealing things or hurt when they didn't
acknowledge me or reply to my hellos, and spraying myself in the
darkened bathroom to feel less like I was disappearing—because inside
the falling mist I had a sense of having an outline again—making
efforts to see my sick father in his room began to feel like a burden, a
nuisance.

For the past year I'd visited for a weekend every other month or so.

I'd given up on the possibility of a grand reconciliation, the kind in
the movies, but I kept coming anyway.

Before I said good-bye, I went to the bathroom to mist one more time.
The spray was natural, which meant that over the course of a few minutes
it no longer smelled sharp like roses, but fetid and stinky like a
swamp, although I didn't realize it at the time.

As I came into his room, he was getting into a standing position. I
watched him gather both his legs in one arm, twist himself 90 degrees by
pushing against the headboard with the other arm, and then use both arms
to hoist his own legs over the edge of the bed and onto the floor. When
we hugged, I could feel his vertebrae, his ribs. He smelled musty, like
medicine sweat.

"I'll be back soon," I said.

We detached, and I started walking away.

"Lis?"

"Yeah?"

"You smell like a toilet."

In the spring of 1978, when my parents were 23, my mother gave birth to
me on their friend Robert's farm in Oregon, with the help of two
midwives. The labor and delivery took three hours, start to finish. My
father arrived a few days later. "It's not my kid," he kept telling
everyone at the farm, but he'd flown there to meet me anyway. I had
black hair and a big nose, and Robert said, "She sure looks like you."

My parents took me out into a field, laid me on a blanket, and looked
through the pages of a baby-name book. He wanted to name me Claire. They
went through several names but couldn't agree. They didn't want
something derivative, a shorter version of a longer name.

Top, Lisa with her mother, in Saratoga, California, 1981; Bottom, Lisa with her father, three days after she was born, 1978.

"What about Lisa?" my mother finally said.

"Yes. That one," he said happily.

He left the next day.

"Isn't Lisa short for Elizabeth?" I asked my mother. "No. We looked
it up. It's a separate name." "And why did you let him help name me
when he was pretending he wasn't the father?" "Because he was your
father," she said.

During the time my mother was pregnant, my father started work on a
computer that would later be called the Lisa. It was the precursor to
the Macintosh, the first mass-market computer with an external
mouse—the mouse as large as a block of cheese. But it was too
expensive, a commercial failure; my father began on the team working for
it, but then started working against it, competing against it, on the
Mac team. The Lisa computer was discontinued, the 3,000 unsold computers
later buried in a landfill in Logan, Utah.

Until I was two, my mother supplemented her welfare payments by cleaning
houses and waitressing. My father didn't help. She found babysitting at
a day-care center inside a church run by the minister's wife, and for a
few months we lived in a room in a house that my mother had found on a
notice board meant for women considering adoption.

Then, in 1980, the district attorney of San Mateo County, California,
sued my father for child-support payments. My father responded by
denying paternity, swearing in a deposition that he was sterile and
naming another man he said was my father.

I was required to take a DNA test. The tests were new then, and when the
results came back, they gave the odds that we were related as the
highest the instruments could measure at the time: 94.4 percent. The
court required my father to cover welfare back payments, child-support
payments of $385 per month, which he increased to $500, and medical
insurance until I was 18. The case was finalized on December 8, 1980,
with my father's lawyers insistent to close. Four days later Apple went
public and overnight my father was worth more than $200 million.

But before that, just after the court case was finalized, my father came
to visit me once at our house in Menlo Park, where we had rented a
detached studio. It was the first time I'd seen him since I'd been a
newborn in Oregon.

"You know who I am?" he asked. He flipped his hair out of his eyes.

I was three years old; I didn't.

"I'm your father." ("Like he was Darth Vader," my mother said later,
when she told me the story.)

"I'm one of the most important people you will ever know," he said.

By the time I was seven, my mother and I had moved 13 times. We rented
spaces informally, staying in a friend's furnished bedroom here, a
temporary sublet there. My father had started dropping by sometimes,
about once a month, and he, my mother, and I would go roller-skating
around the neighborhood. His engine shuddered into our driveway, echoing
off our house and the wooden fence on the other side, thickening the air
with excitement. He drove a black Porsche convertible. When he stopped,
the sound turned into a whine and then was extinguished, leaving the
quiet more quiet, the pinpoint sounds of birds.

I anticipated his arrival, wondering when it would happen, and thought
about him afterward—but in his presence, for the hour or so we were
all together, there was a strange blankness, like the air after his
engine switched off. He didn't talk much. There were long pauses, the
thunk and whir of roller skates on pavement.

We skated the neighborhood streets. Trees overhead made patterns of the
light. Fuchsia dangled from bushes in yards, stamens below a bell of
petals, like women in ball gowns with purple shoes. My father and mother
had the same skates, a beige nubuck body with red laces crisscrossed
over a double line of metal fasts. As we passed bushes in other people's
yards, he pulled clumps of leaves off the stems, then dropped the
fragments as we skated, making a line of ripped leaves behind us on the
pavement like Hansel and Gretel. A few times, I felt his eyes on me;
when I looked up, he looked away.

After he left, we talked about him.

"Why do his jeans have holes all over?" I asked my mother. He might
have sewn them up. I knew he was supposed to have millions of dollars.
We didn't just say "millionaire" but "multi-millionaire" when we
spoke of him, because it was accurate, and because knowing the granular
details made us part of it.

She said my father had a lisp. "It's something to do with his teeth,"
she said. "They hit each other exactly straight on, and over the years
they cracked and chipped where they hit, so the top and bottom teeth
meet, with no spaces. It looks like a zigzag, or a zipper."

For him, I was a blot on a spectacular ascent. For me, it was the
opposite.

"And he has these strangely flat palms," she said.

I assigned mystical qualities to his zipper teeth, his tattered jeans,
his flat palms, as if these were not only different from other fathers'
but better, and now that he was in my life, even if it was only once a
month, I had not waited in vain. I would be better off than children
who'd had fathers all along.

"I heard when it gets a scratch, he buys a new one," I overheard my
mother say to her boyfriend Ron.

"A new what?" I asked.

"Porsche."

"Couldn't he just paint over the scratch?" I asked.

"Car paint doesn't work like that," Ron said to me. "You can't just
paint over black with black; it wouldn't blend. There are thousands of
different blacks. They'd have to repaint the whole thing."

The next time my father came over, I wondered if it was the same car
he'd been driving the last time, or if it was a new one that just looked
the same.

"I have a secret," I said to my new friends at school. I whispered it
so that they would see I was reluctant to mention it. The key, I felt,
was to underplay. "My father is Steve Jobs."

"Who's that?" one asked.

"He's famous," I said. "He invented the personal computer. He lives
in a mansion and drives a Porsche convertible. He buys a new one every
time it gets a scratch."

The story had a film of unreality to it as I said it, even to my own
ears. I hadn't hung out with him that much, only a few skates and
visits. I didn't have the clothes or the bike someone with a father like
this would have.

"He even named a computer after me," I said to them.

"What computer?" a girl asked.

"The Lisa," I said.

"A computer called the Lisa?" she said. "I never heard of it."

"It was ahead of its time." I used my mother's phrase, although I
wasn't sure why it was ahead. I brought it up when I felt I needed to,
waited as long as I could and then let it burst forth. I don't remember
feeling at a disadvantage with my friends who had fathers, only that
there was at my fingertips another magical identity, an extra thing that
started to itch and tingle when I felt small, and it was like pressure
building inside me, and then I had to find a way to say it.

The author, photographed at home in Brooklyn.

One afternoon around this time my father brought over a Macintosh
computer. He pulled the box out of the backseat and carried it into my
room and put it on the floor. "Let's see," he said. "How do we open
it?" As if he didn't know. This made me doubt he was the inventor. He
pulled the computer out of the box by a handle on the top and set it on
the floor near the outlet on the wall. "I guess we plug this in." He
held the cord loose like it was unfamiliar.

He sat on the floor in front of it with his legs crossed; I sat on my
knees beside him. He looked for the On switch, found it, and the machine
came alive to reveal a picture of itself in the center, smiling. He
showed me how I could draw and save my drawings on the desktop once I
was finished with them, and then he left.

He didn't mention the other one, the Lisa. I worried that he had not
really named a computer after me, that it was a mistake.

For a long time I hoped that if I played one role, my father would take
the corresponding role. I would be the beloved daughter; he would be the
indulgent father. I decided that if I acted like other daughters did, he
would join in the lark. We'd pretend together, and in pretending we'd
make it real. If I had observed him as he was, or admitted to myself
what I saw, I would have known that he would not do this, and that a
game of pretend would disgust him.

Later that year, I would stay overnight at my father's house on several
Wednesdays while my mother took college classes in San Francisco. On
those nights, we ate dinner, took a hot tub outside, and watched old
movies. During the car rides to his house, he didn't talk.

"Can I have it when you're done?"I asked him one night, as we took a
left at the leaning, crumbling white pillars that flanked the thin,
bumpy road ending at his gate. I'd been thinking about it for a while
but had only just built up the courage to ask.

"Can you have what?" he said.

"This car. Your Porsche." I wondered where he put the extras. I
pictured them in a shiny black line at the back of his land.

"Absolutely not," he said in such a sour, biting way that I knew I'd
made a mistake. I understood that perhaps it wasn't true, the myth of
the scratch: maybe he didn't buy new ones. By that time I knew he was
not generous with money, or food, or words; the idea of the Porsches had
seemed like one glorious exception.

I wished I could take it back. We pulled up to the house and he turned
off the engine. Before I made a move to get out he turned to face me.

"You're not getting anything," he said. "You understand? Nothing.
You're getting nothing." Did he mean about the car, something else,
bigger? I didn't know. His voice hurt—sharp, in my chest.

The light was cool in the car, a white light on the roof had lit up when
the car turned off. Around us was dark. I had made a terrible mistake
and he'd recoiled.

By then the idea that he'd named the failed computer after me was woven
in with my sense of self, even if he did not confirm it, and I used this
story to bolster myself when, near him, I felt like nothing. I didn't
care about computers—they were made of fixed metal parts and chips
with glinting lines inside plastic cases—but I liked the idea that I
was connected to him in this way. It would mean I'd been chosen and had
a place, despite the fact that he was aloof or absent. It meant I was
fastened to the earth and its machines. He was famous; he drove a
Porsche. If the Lisa was named after me, I was a part of all that.

I see now that we were at cross-purposes. For him, I was a blot on a
spectacular ascent, as our story did not fit with the narrative of
greatness and virtue he might have wanted for himself. My existence
ruined his streak. For me, it was the opposite: the closer I was to him,
the less I would feel ashamed; he was part of the world, and he would
accelerate me into the light.

It might all have been a big misunderstanding, a missed connection: he'd
simply forgotten to mention the computer was named after me. I was
shaking with the need to set it right all at once, as if waiting for a
person to arrive for their surprise party—to switch on the lights and
yell out what I'd held in.

"Hey, you know that computer, the Lisa? Was it named after me?" I
asked many years later, when I was in high school and splitting my time
between my parents' houses. I tried to sound like I was curious, nothing
more.

If he would just give me this one thing.

"Nope." His voice was clipped, dismissive. Like I was fishing for a
compliment. "Sorry, kid."

When I was 27, my father invited me to join for a few days on a yacht
trip that he, my stepmother, my siblings, and the babysitter were taking
in the Mediterranean. He didn't usually invite me on vacations. I went
for a long weekend.

Off the coast of the South of France my father said we were going to
make a stop in the Alpes-Maritimes to meet a friend for lunch. He
wouldn't say who the friend was. We took a boat to the dock, where a van
picked us up and drove us to a lunch at a villa in Èze.

It turned out to be Bono's villa. He met us out front wearing jeans, a
T-shirt, and the same sunglasses I'd seen him wearing in pictures and on
album covers.

He gave us an exuberant tour of his house, as if he couldn't quite
believe it was his. The windows faced the Mediterranean, and the rooms
were cluttered with children's things. In an empty, light-filled
octagonal room, he said, Gandhi had once slept.

We had lunch on a large covered balcony overlooking the sea. Bono asked
my father about the beginning of Apple. Did the team feel alive? Did
they sense it was something big and they were going to change the world?
My father said it did feel that way as they were making the Macintosh,
and Bono said it was that way for him and the band, too, and wasn't it
incredible that people in such disparate fields could have the same
experience? Then Bono asked, "So, was the Lisa computer named after
her?"

There was a pause. I braced myself—prepared for his answer.

My father hesitated, looked down at his plate for a long moment, and
then back at Bono. "Yeah, it was," he said.

I sat up in my chair.

"I thought so," Bono said.

"Yup," my father said.

I studied my father's face. What had changed? Why had he admitted it
now, after all these years? Of course it was named after me, I thought
then. His lie seemed preposterous now. I felt a new power that pulled my
chest up.

"That's the first time he's said yes," I told Bono. "Thank you for
asking." As if famous people needed other famous people around to
release their secrets.

Adapted from Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, to be published September 4, 2018, by Grove Press. © 2018 by the author.