Longform

Denver's Own Royal Tenenbaums

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Plus, in his crusade against disorder, the inventor left behind the great whirling engine that is his family, the most fantastic of all his creations. It continues chugging along even without its central, steadfast piston, picking up where he left off.

Soon after the funeral, Tomicah, Levi and Corban traveled to New York to accept the NASA "Create the Future" award, not as a final tribute to their father, but as the next step toward the engine's implementation. Family members, working alongside Timber's business partners and colleagues at the University of Denver, are planning to build a basic prototype of the IRIS, and many believe the device's potential has skyrocketed thanks to escalating gas prices. "All of us felt very strongly that we couldn't let this die," says Tomicah. "At least in the years between today and when we're able to move off fossil fuels, we hope this will become the solution."

Back in Denver, the big white house remains as busy as ever. Brothers and sisters pop in from distant ports, take their seats at the dining room table and add their voices to the ruckus. They help with the morning Dante lessons and trips to the art museum, fill the dining room with lilacs — Annette's favorite — and encourage their younger brothers and sisters to always follow their bliss, just as Timber did for them.

There are the tearful nights, says Corban over the phone from China, "but the biggest inheritance our dad left us was each other. We are able to rely on each other, to support each other, and to know there will always be someone there for us. That knowledge makes dealing with this so much easier and so much less scary."

And then, one by one, the children will be off again on distant adventures, each doing their part toward Tillemann-Dick world domination.

"There's not an hour that goes by when I don't think about what happened," says Shiloh, whipping up some olive bread in the kitchen before he packs for his internship with the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington, D. C. "But I have no option but to thrive. There is no alternative. If we all stayed together and didn't do anything, what would be the point of that?"

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner