September 9, 2009

My Brother Jim Sachs

My recent infatuation with Twitter makes me think of my brother Jim. He was a man of few words and the 140 character tweets would have suited him just fine. I’m sad to say he’s not here to join the fun; he died of cancer in 2002 at the age of 47, leaving a void in the hearts of his wife, three teenagers and his enormous family. Jim certainly left his mark.

His name, with 3 of his colleagues, is on the patent for Apple’s mouse (below). 

Jim’s Name on Apple’s Patent for the Mouse: 1988

He invented the electronic book a dozen years ago, and predicted it would take about a decade to catch on. Need I say more? No. (But I will… he was my little bro, y’know?) Jim’s electronic wizardry made Laser Tag and Barney possible (remember that  talking, purple dinosaur?) I often wonder what other breakthroughs he might have come up with, if he’d only had a bit more time.

Jim has been on my mind this summer, influenced no doubt by the death of our mother. I’ve been flooded with memories of older-sister-younger-brother shenanigans from our childhood in New Hampshire. In retrospect, Jim was the first person in my life to give me a glimpse into what I now refer to as Theatrical Intelligence.

One particular memory from the early 60’s keeps coming back to me: he was a serious 8-year-old and I was a rather dramatic 16, preparing for one of those standardized tests and trying to make sense of a word problem that had one train going X miles an hour colliding into another train going Y miles an hour and I was nearly apoplectic at the image. Jimmy (as we then called him) asked “What’s the problem?” And I launched into a harrowing description of children being catapulted from the train and lovers “untimely ripped” from each each other’s clasp and infants rendered orphans and… Jimmy stopped me and said “Ann, it’s a math question.” To which I immediately responded “It’s a tragedy!”

I will never forget that little face peering up at me through 1960’s glasses, shaking his head in disbelief: “I guess that’s why you’re going to be a Broadway actress,” and I, with deep disdain: And you’re going to be an engineer!”

It was a pivotal moment: we understood that each of us viewed the world through a completely different lens (albeit his lens in this case sure was clearer than mine!) Over the years we reflected back on that particular moment, and as we grew older confided in one other about our contrasting perspectives. We both loved learning, and never ceased to learn from our differences.

Looking through my Theatrical Intelligence lens today, I see that Jim’s dominant roles were Designer, Technician and Producer, whereas mine were Actor, Writer and Producer.  We came together as conversation partners as Producers, and were able to expand our capabilities by incorporating the other’s vision.

Shortly before he died we had a boffo laugh when we secretly agreed that together we would have made one perfect person. How blessed have I been, to have such a brother.

Sometimes I think that writing this blog is not only a way to explore the world of Theatrical Intelligence, but a way to continue my conversations with Jim. 

And when I miss him, which is every single day, I find myself saying…

“This is for you, Jim.”

 

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6 Responses to “My Brother Jim Sachs”

  1. Gary says:

    Ann, A moving tribute to someone who moves many of us everyday – and we do not even know it! What strikes me is the creatives and the suits anaology – although I doubt that you or your brother would ever be comfortable being bucketed as a suit or a creative. That is why I like the Theatrical Intelligence – it has all the components of your “perfect person”. And for now, we can swing from creative suit to suited creative and play in the space between! Best,

  2. Ann Sachs says:

    LOVE the buckets, Gary, thank you for your observation.

    One of the exciting things about Theatrical Intelligence is that it takes ALL of us: creative suit to suited creative (whether or not that is one and the same person) and it doesn’t pigeonhole us the way the world so often does. So glad you reflected it back this way.

  3. I loved this piece, Ann. I miss my brother, too.

  4. Chris says:

    I didn’t read this the first time around, but got to find it through your mention of it on Twitter. Thank you for sharing this Ann. What a great story. What a great brother.

  5. Ann Sachs says:

    Thank you for your comment, Chris. Of course you’ll get no argument from me about the great brother part! I enjoy following you on Twitter, and you and Devon Smith will be quite a pair next year in Austin. Hope to meet you at some point.

  6. […] just wished my brother Jim a Happy Birthday on Facebook. He would have turned 58 today. I did the same thing two years […]

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