Michael L. Jalkut – 1950-2010

February 3rd, 2010

Today I learned that my dad, Michael, has passed away while traveling in Washington, D.C. We were never the closest father & son pair, but I loved him, and he loved me. Over the years of my adulthood, and especially since my son Henry was born, I have been trying to work towards a closer relationship with him.

He taught me to love computers. When I was 5 and living alone with my Mom, he brought me a copy of a BASIC programming magazine, and a Timex Sinclair computer. He tried to talk through the logic of control flow with me. Of course, it flew over my head, but it taught me enough to know that my dad’s finger could move across the rules on a piece of paper, and the rules dictated where his finger would go.

A few years later he and my Mom got back together and we all moved back in together. He bought me a Commodore 64, and set me up with some fun games. I didn’t program anything, I was too busy playing Little League baseball and trying to be a normal kid. Sometimes he played catch with me. On Father’s day we would drive to San Francisco to see the Giants. He didn’t even like baseball, but he did a good job faking it for me. He bought me frozen Carnation malts.

My Dad had gone back to school in his 30’s to earn a computer science degree. When we moved back in with him, he was starting his late-blooming career at IBM, where he worked for a short time. He moved on to Digital Research and worked on GEM, a graphical windowing system not terribly unlike the Mac. Later he joined MetaWare, where he worked as a compiler engineer with the same group of people for almost 20 years.

When I was 17, a friend of mine got into legal trouble, and I could have snitched on him and made it worse. I asked my dad for help, so he took me to a lawyer and paid for it. He didn’t judge me for wanting to protect my friend. He made it possible for me to be a loyal friend, even to somebody who may not have earned my Dad’s respect.

After I graduated from college and left the house, the years seem to rush by like a blur. I did my thing in San Francisco, working at Apple, meeting my (now) wife, and going back to school for a second degree. Meanwhile, I saw my Dad a few times a year. We always expressed our love for each other, but there was a lingering anxiety and awkwardness. Our relationship had frozen somewhat in the form we had left it in my teens: each of us struggling to come to terms with our significantly differing political and metaphysical beliefs. After my wife and I moved to Boston in 2005, I saw even less of my family, sometimes only once or twice a year.

He always expressed great pride about the career path I followed. He was impressed that I had graduated from University, found a great job at Apple, and then founded my own business, all after dropping out of high school (against his wishes!). He let me know so often of his pride, that he gave me the gift of never having to worry particularly that I might have disappointed him. I think this helped me to pursue my dreams more freely than ever.

His satisfaction with my career turned him slowly but surely from an Apple-hater into one of its biggest fans. A few years ago he lost his long-time job as a compiler engineer, and reoriented himself towards the Mac, starting a business of his own, and feeling his way towards a niche. He became certified in all manner of OS X support technician programs, and even decided to attend WWDC a couple years ago. Some of you will probably remember having met him there.

His business never really took off, and a sequence of unfortunate events handed him some serious blows. Life didn’t hand him a perfect hand, but he managed to leave some beauty here with us, and I am grateful for that. I would have loved to have seen what would have become of the rest of his life, and how my own young family would have fit into it.

The circumstances of his death are sad, and personal. We barely spoke over the past year, but I had a good conversation with him at my Grandmother’s funeral in November. Suffice to say, he died too young. I miss you, Dad.

131 Responses to “Michael L. Jalkut – 1950-2010”

  1. Donald Says:

    Daniel your post does such an honour to your dad and family.

    My thoughts are with you and yours

  2. Geoff Says:

    Resolved to make the effort and spend more time with my dad. Thanks for sharing and motivating.

  3. Daniel Marlow Says:

    Your post is beautiful and amazing. Though I was not close to my own father–I had decided to “give him one more chance” early in the hear he died–I couldn’t delete his phone numbers from my phone for several years after he passed. I still miss the number s and him at weird times. Some days I see his face in others. My deepest condolences to you and your family, sir.

  4. Chuck Soper Says:

    Daniel, Your tribute and remembrance of your father is moving. A couple of years ago I started a conversation with him when I recognized his/your last name on his badge. We were in Jillian’s, I think during Macworld. We spoke about for over an hour about linguistics, compilers, Berkeley, Santa Cruz and much more. I’m glad that I had that brief and interesting encounter with him. I’m sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you and your family. Chuck

  5. Frank Says:

    Daniel,

    Our deepest condolences to you, your family, and all who knew your father. Your post brought a tear to my eye. While I have been blessed to be quite close to my father (though unfortunately not geographically), and, God willing, will have him around still for many years to come, what you wrote is a reminder of just how precious time is with family and with those you love. Thank you for allowing us to share in that with you.

    P.S. That is a great picture you included.

  6. Rick LePage Says:

    Daniel,

    I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. I’m sure that he would be proud of the eloquence and caring that came through in your post. It’s a touching remembrance.

    Peace,
    rk

  7. Buzz Andersen Says:

    I’m very sorry to hear that. My sympathies. I’m glad I got the opportunity to meet him once.

  8. Jonathan Says:

    Daniel, I’m very sorry for your loss.

  9. Larry Rank Says:

    I was shocked to see your tweet. I instantly recalled the photo from WWDC. It’s great that you have good memories to revisit. I’m sure this will be a gift that will benefit your son, as well. I’m saddened to read of your loss. Be strong and take care. I’ll be thinking of you and your family.

  10. Craig Radnovich Says:

    Condolences. Your eloquent post is a great tribute. Prayers for your family.

  11. Ton Voon Says:

    My deepest condolences Daniel. That was a very moving tribute and I’m sure he’d be smiling.

  12. Raghnor Says:

    My condolences Daniel. I’m sure he’s now in better place.

  13. 6ft5 Says:

    Sorry for your loss. It was a very beautiful tribute you wrote for your dad. Touching!

  14. Jack Matthew Says:

    Daniel, I’m so sorry. Your dad was always very kind to me, and I will miss him. My condolences to you, your mom, and your brother, and your family.

  15. Allison Muir Says:

    So sorry Daniel. There are a lot of new emotions that I have for my parents now that I am one. It complicates the grieving process. Hope you’re doing okay.

  16. Jeff Windsor Says:

    Daniel, sorry to read about your loss. My condolences to you and your family. The loss of a parent is is quite a blow.

  17. johnkzin Says:

    I just wanted to say that I hope your father’s memory is always a blessing to you.

  18. delhiboy Says:

    His light will shine through you. Fathers may never say much but their presence is always missed after they are gone. Sending you strength. Namaste!

  19. Anthony Kong Says:

    Deeply sorry for your loss

  20. Rick Rumick Says:

    I’m deeply saddened to hear of your dad’s passing. I spoke with your mom yesterday and she gave me the very sad news.
    I grew up with Mike in Illinois and knew him since 2nd grade. We were great friends in grade school through high school.
    I will always remember the fun times that we had together as kids.

    My deepest condolences to you and your family. I hope that he is at peace now.

  21. Paul Workman Says:

    Thanks, Daniel, for that personal insight you shared about Michael. I met him one Thursday night in Soquel about 25 years ago and came to love him as a friend. He had some great spiritual insights and a group of us were discussing his passing last night and we all remarked about some of the things he said in years past that we have always kept with us. That’s quite a remarkable legacy.
    My prayers and thoughts are with you and your family. God bless you all.

  22. Torbjørn Vik Lunde Says:

    I am very sorry for your loss.

  23. Peter Maurer Says:

    Daniel, it seems that in a way, your father paved the way for your career, so it’s probably fair to say that he will live on through Red Sweater Software, among other things. Come to think of it, the same may be true for what a lot of us software guys do today — as far as I’m concerned, the fact that he worked on GEM just turned him into one of my childhood heroes retrospectively.

    Please accept my sincerest condolences.

  24. Jeff Dickey Says:

    I, also, grieve with thee… A beautiful and moving portrait. My relationship with my father has also had its ups and downs; like yours, largely for political and spiritual reasons. We got close again when I moved in and tried to help out when my mom was dying, but started falling back into the kind of disagreements we had when I was a teen. Moving halfway round the planet again has made me dread That Call; more so now that he’s working so hard to care for close others that it’s wearing him down, too. He’s a Marine; he keeps going as long and hard as he can. It took me a long time to get my head on straight, is all.

    Thank you for sharing, and for reminding each off us how blessed we truly are. Godspeed to you and yours.

  25. Glenn Burks Says:

    Daniel,

    I stopped by to look at the latests on Marsedit and was saddened when I read about the passing of your father. Last November I lost my brother in a motorcycle accident.

    We just never know when a life is going to be cut short. It makes it so important for us to forget any differences of opinion etc… Especially when it comes to family members

    Please accept my condolences.

    Glenn

  26. trent Says:

    D-
    Deepest condolences to you and yours.
    -trent

  27. JD Says:

    Hi, Sorry to hear about your father. I lost my dad in 2004. Died in my arms. No easier close or far, I am sure. Although you may not have been as close as you were now working toward, it sounds like there was a lot of love and mutual respect between you and he. To me there is always a bright side. And maybe for you it’s that your father may now be closer than you think, and he has the time to spend watching your family grow. Best wishes to you. JD

  28. Ben Says:

    Im so sorry

  29. Kevin Says:

    Daniel… I worked with your dad at MetaWare for about 7 years. I really enjoyed the time I spent with him. He was a good man!

    take care…

  30. Victoria Wang Says:

    Daniel, I’m so sorry for your loss. I remember reading this last year and feeling so moved. I couldn’t figure out what to say. In recent years, my relationship with my parents has undergone similar awkwardness due to differences in beliefs. Thanks for the reminder to treasure that relationship.

  31. Rebecca Bearman Says:

    I think I just lost my comment because I didn’t fill in my email address first.
    I was looking on Google today for Michael Jalkut who I knew in the late 60’s/early 70’s. I had just read a biography of John Lennon and was remeinded that Michael was my John Lennon at that time in our youth. I woder if you could confirm if this is the same. We were so young it is hard to tell by the photo for sure but his birthdate would be about correct.
    I knew him in Iowa City, Clinton street about the time you were born. I saw him later on a trip he made to Washington State a year or so later.
    I’m sorry for your loss.

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