When I Heard Steve Davis Had Died
When I heard Steve Davis had died, I looked through my recent calls and realized that probably 70% of the calls I made or received in the last few months were from Steve. And it’s literally been like that for decades.
We met through work in 1998 and became fast personal friends. How could you not be Steve’s friend? So joyful and so clever, always willing to talk through anything under the sun just for the exercise of doing so.
I enjoyed our calls so much that I regularly answered the phone even if I was with other people. All my friends knew who Steve was, and most of them caught snippets of our conversations over the years because it was just too entertaining not to share the hilarity.
It’s hard to adjust to knowing that no more calls, no more uproarious laughter, no more clever turns of a phrase, no more random metaphysical discussions are coming.
Never again will my phone ring with a random, “Hey, can you get online and look up the assembly manual for my new mower? I bought the floor model and it came without a book and I’m trying to get the damn blade on it.”
We talked about food, usually when he’d call to tell me, “I’m driving to my Heinen’s place.” At Heinen’s, they bring your groceries to your car in the drive through, and Steve had hassled the Heinen’s employees so much about making sure he got a prime number for the lineup that eventually, he didn’t have to ask. I like to imagine they’d see him walking toward the door and say, “Prime number guy is here!”
We talked about cars. We talked about music. We talked about politics, especially in the last four years. We constructed deceits that were preposterous and then held each other to them, with hilarious resulting discussions. A few examples:
One day, Ruthy’s car was stolen from their garage right after she got home. When they both realized the other one wasn’t driving it, they called the police to report it. The cops saw the white Subaru and gave chase, but soon called it off. “They said they called it off for safety reasons, but I think every cop knows Subaru’s are just too fast to catch,” Steve insisted. We milked that line for years.
Maybe 15 years ago we had lunch at a restaurant near Akron. He’d never been there before but he was so friendly and open that he started joking around with the waitress. I said to him, “You’re like old friends already!” And he said, “Oh, I come in here every day for lunch. She knows me.” For 15 straight years, our running discussions around noon on any given day included what he had for lunch at that restaurant that day. One time I called him from that restaurant and said, “Hey, I’m here and it’s noon. Where are you?” and he replied, “Aw, I just left there! Sorry I missed you!”
We literally dragged that nonsense out for the last 15 years.
For a time several years ago, Steve and Ruthy hosted an international student, Helge from Norway, who I never met or laid eyes on, but I heard so many funny stories about him that we would revisit over and over, randomly. Earlier this year, Steve told me Helge had COVID, and I told him, “You should text Helge and tell him it’s a good thing he saw Garfield’s tomb while he could.” He did exactly that, while we were on the phone. Steve’s enthusiasm for James A. Garfield was completely manufactured to make it seem like Helge visiting the tomb was going to be a really big, American experience. Now we all share in the joke.
I’m sure he shared inside jokes and long-running threads in conversations with all of his friends, and he often cross-pollinated our discussions with inside jokes he had with others. “I was talking to my friend Denny Wendell one time…” Because I live in Akron, I only ever met or spoke to a handful of his other friends and neighbors, but I know all their names and I still remember and chuckle about many of their stories. Including Birdtown North, Pat Carroll.
I live alone, and I told Jim O’Bryan the other day that, during the pandemic, Steve was easily the human being I talked with the most frequently. “Imagine how embarrassed he’d be to know I was going to refer to him as my ‘pandemic wife’ next week in the newspaper,” I said.
My personal loss feels profound and cruel. I cannot imagine the total volume of emptiness and grief and sadness left in the wake of Steve’s sudden departure across his family and the whole crazy cast of characters he included in his life, and I will miss terribly the regular updates about his children and grandchildren, who he loved, and loved screwing with.
In one of our recent discussions, he was recounting a recent visit from his daughter, Julianne, in which he said some crazy thing as if it was fact, and she replied, “You know, you need to watch what you tell people because sometimes they repeat your BS and get called out on it.” We were almost laughing to tears as he recounted this story, and I insisted he needed to ask what specific thing it was that she’d repeated and gotten called out on.
That detail has become just another loose end I’ll have to live with.
My deepest sympathies to Ruthy and the kids. Thank you so much for sharing your Steve with the world. It is a vastly less interesting place without him in it.
Publisher, Lakewood Observer, Inc.