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The Year of Nevers

A grief narrative by Brittani Ferguson

The Year of Nevers

Grief is a monster. A beast. An absolute unstoppable wrecking ball that affects every single millisecond of your life.

I lost my father on January 3, 2022. I hadn’t seen him in person since Christmas 2019.

Our last words to each other were a text conversation about the weather in Texas on January 2. I took a screenshot in case I accidentally lost the thread. His number is out of service, now, but there it sits one my phone.

The weather was bad in Texas, another year with freezing temperatures in the center of a state without the infrastructure to support them. My mom was in Washington, helping my brother and sister-in-law prepare for a new baby. My dad was on his own, watching over the house and their sweet dog, Odie.

Me: You and Odie doing okay in that cold? Diva Dave*: Doing fine just staying in. Too cold for us. Me: Yeah that’s freezing. You have a heat source? Diva Dave: Furnace. Me: Oh good.

*Diva Dave was the nickname affectionately bestowed upon my father by my girlfriend.

That was it. The following day at 5PM I received a new job offer I’d been really excited about. I didn’t want to tell him until I signed the offer letter, though, so I sat on it.

By 7PM, my mom called. We lost your dad. His heart gave out. His heart. Gave out.

Oh good.

The last words I wrote to my father were “oh good.” I scrolled back through my phone history to find our last real conversation, one where we heard each other’s voices. Eight days. It had been eight days since I’d called him. Not a horrible stretch of time by any means, but in light of the news, it felt like I’d let something so special slip from my grasp. I’d so naively let those eight days pass, assuming there would be a tomorrow. But I’d never talk to him again.

The last time I spoke to him was on Christmas morning. I FaceTime’d him from my girlfriend’s family’s home in sunny central California. We laughed about past Christmases, gossiped about a shocking family engagement, and opened presents together. He got us mace that could be hooked up to an app on our phones (he was a worrier). We got him a butter crock. He made a lot of homemade butter.

He was alone, but he was making his favorite Re-Baked Potatoes for a party at the neighbor’s house.

In those later years, when the alcoholism really took root, conversations with him could become fraught so quickly. But on that Christmas morning, he was vibrant and silly and a reflection of the father I grew up with. The one who woke us up at the crack of dawn for Christmas presents. Who made his own homemade marshmallows for fudge (the store bought ones were grainy). The one who made certain we bagged our wrapping paper rather than letting it pile up on the floor. Who sang Christmas melodies out of tune while he made pancakes and bacon and hashbrowns (for mom).

As Christmas Day approaches, I keep hearing about “firsts.” First Christmas without dad, the first holiday season is the hardest, the first year will pass too quick. First, first, first. But it’s not firsts for me. Being a military child, I’ve spent countless holidays away from my parents. I didn’t see my dad on my birthday for most of my childhood because he was deployed somewhere around the world. My first apartment in the city when un-visited by them because it just didn’t line up with their trips to the States.

No, the firsts I reconciled a long time ago. This, for me, is the year of Nevers. As the first year of his death comes to a close, all I can seem to see is the life I won’t share with him.

He’ll never know my children.

I'll never give him good news again.

He’ll never send me another butt dial.

He’ll never come to my home for a holiday.

He’ll never make that farmhouse dining room table he promised me.

He’ll never pick up on the other end of the phone with a “hey sweetie.”

I’ll never open my texts again with the latest song he’s fallen in love with (the most recent: “Baby Outlaw” by Elle King).

I’ll never send him another video of Carol Burnett on a Monday morning.

We’ll never exchange presents again.

We’ll never show each other what we’re cooking at the moment.

I’ll never make him laugh again, or smile or yell or grimace or chuckle or . . . .

Never, never, never. I’m haunted by the future that won’t be, far more than these first milestones.

Never is what I have to reconcile. Never is what I have to understand. Whatever shadow of him still exists on this plane is with me, I know that. Whatever good he gave his children lives on in them.

So maybe never is one of the many tricks of grief. Maybe never isn’t a real framing of time. Maybe it’s always.

I’ll always have the baseball we got at White Sox park signed by Scottie Pippen.

I’ll always have the early morning Christmas traditions.

I’ll always have the years we spent together on the softball field, my third base coach.

I’ll always have the thumbprint of his personality on mine, argumentative, passionate, insecure, kind.

I’ll always be his daughter.

- Brittani Ferguson