I hope all of you are well, and that life is going smoothly.
I always hesitate to share sad personal news with you, but sometimes it seems important, and defines me in a way, so maybe it’s okay to share it with you, so we know each other better. So I will share my sad news with you this time, of a few days ago.
I’ve told you about my marriage to my husband John, a long and mostly happy marriage to a truly lovely elegant, aristocratic, charming man, who was the father of eight of my nine children. A heroic feat in itself. We were married for 17 years, most of which were happy, and not all love stories last forever. We divorced after 17 years, but remained very close until he passed away five years ago. I’ve always had a great attraction to much older men. He was a great deal older than I. And after we divorced, I married another man of the same ‘vintage’, also a lot older than I, Tom Perkins. He was in my life for 32 years, 10 as a friend, 8 as husband, and another 14 as beloved, dear friend after we divorced. And much to my sorrow, and that of my children, Tom passed away last Tuesday night, after a long illness. He fought valiantly against the illness for the past seven years, and continued staunchly living life until the very end. And even knowing how ill he was, his death comes as a shock, and a great sadness to me and my children.
I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to have been loved by, and to have loved two very remarkable men.
When I met Tom, we were both happily married, I to John, and Tom to a lovely woman he was married to for 32 years. We were in a group of friends. Ten years later, my marriage to John fell apart, Tom’s wife died at the same time, and he told me he wanted to go out with me. And in very old fashioned style, out of respect for my failed marriage, and his late wife, we waited a whole year to date—-we didn’t even have lunch. And after that, our romance began which led to our eventual marriage.
When I met Tom he was already a legendary man, larger than life. And without question he was a genius, the only one I have ever known. A graduate of Harvard and MIT, he was by training a physicist, an engineer, an expert sailour, a sculptor in his spare time, an inventor (he invented an important laser in his garage at 27, that is still in use today). He loved harpsichords, and when he couldn’t find one he liked, he built his own. He became one of the first and most important venture capitalists in the early days of Silicon Valley, and started the firm of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, started famous companies, Genentech and Tandem among others, was deeply involved in high tech, provided the funding for Amazon, AOL, and later Google (and was able to make fun of himself—-he readily admitted with a chuckle that he had turned down the opportunity to invest in Apple, and thought it would go nowhere). But he recognized genius when the young men who started Google came to see him. He worked at Hewlitt Packard and later served on the board. He was a philanthropist, had a passion for sailing and sailboats, had a 300 ft. sailboat built and designed the system of sails himself with a completely innovative design (which everyone said wouldn’t work, and of course it did), that was a brilliant success. The boat is The Maltese Falcon, which was and is as legendary as he was, and an amazing boat. It could be sailed by a single person, and the sails furled and unfurled by pressing a single button. He used to wake up in the morning, thinking of physics theorems to share with the physicists at MIT. And like all truly brilliant people, he was able to explain intensely complicated concepts with total simplicity and make them chrystal clear. He had no need to make anyone feel stupid by complicating things or using words no one could understand. He wrote a novel (determined to show me that he could do it better), and wrote his memoirs. He was fierce and funny and brilliant, and a terror at liar’s dice. I can’t think of many things he couldn’t do, he had a vast number of talents. When we began our life together, he was already retired, and I had a house full of very young children, and he spent most of his time on his boats. I joined him as often as I could, which wasn’t often enough, but I was driving car pools and raising kids and he was past that time of his life. He had two grown children by then. When his wife died, I tried to fix him up with a widowed friend who had 2 children—-and he told me he would never go out with a woman with children—-so he fell in love with a woman who had 9 of them, one of the ironies of life.
Tom was the embodiment of the American dream. Born in the Depression, he grew up simply, his high school teachers recognized him as a genius, and begged his parents to send him to college. They refused and wanted him to become a TV repairman. One of his teachers applied to MIT for him, and he was accepted, graduated, and went to graduate school at Harvard, and his success took off after that. At 27, the laser he invented in his garage made him his first fortune, which became the cornerstone of what he did after that. His success is legendary, and huge. He was without a doubt the most brilliant man I’ve ever met. He wasn’t easy,—what genius is—I always said that I was sure Mrs. Beethoven didn’t have an easy time either, but I was thrilled to be with him. We had a somewhat bumpy road, but always loved each other. And we never had children together. And although ultimately the marriage was not a success, I felt privileged to have known him, and loved him, and to have been on the sidelines of his life. He always read my manuscripts, and enjoyed them. It was a meeting of minds and hearts, even though we parted company as a marriage after 8 years together, but we remained very close, and became part family, part best friends, and loved each other until the end. My children still love and admire him too. There was SOOO MUCH to admire about Tom, his brilliant mind, and on the right day, sailing somewhere, or on a good day, there was no one more wonderful to be around. Even though the marriage wasn’t a success, our bond to each other never waned. We stayed close until his very last day. We spoke several times in his last few days, had lunch the week before and thoroughly enjoyed it, and he sent me a tender email a few hours before he died.
I will never again know anyone as remarkable, there are few in the world. He was an astounding success, and talented in so many fields. He annoyed a lot of people with his bold outspoken ways. He was fearless, a warrior, a gladiator of sorts, always ready to ride into battle over what he believed. I knew him for half my life, and he was part love, part best friend. I will miss him terribly, and I thought you should know what a remarkable man he was. It’s rare to meet someone like him, and to be loved by a man like him, and love him. He was truly unique. His loss now shouldn’t come as a surprise, at his age and after a long illness, and yet it does. I am startled and sad and shocked, and grateful to have known him. It’s sad to think he is no longer in the world. He was a special and most unusual gift in my life….when we married, he complained that he wanted a small wedding, and kept telling me to make it smaller. He even cancelled our wedding plans twice, and when we did get married, he laughed heartily in his speech that he had down sized the wedding so much that he had accidentally eliminated the bride.
He was an amazing man, truly the Mount Everest of Men. I will miss his love and friendship and our long talks…..and I hope that he is in a place of peace. What a truly remarkable man. And what a loss for the world, and for his family and mine that he is no longer here. Have a good week!!!