1 December 2023 Susannah

My Dad

My Dad

My wonderful Dad died last month. Tributes to him have poured in from around the world and I am grateful to all my friends who have sent lovely messages.

His qualities as an amazing Dad have made me reflect on fathers in literature.

Unlike King Lear, my father believed in treating all his children fairly and sensibly. The father in I Capture the Castle was impractical and hopeless in providing for his family – my Dad was the opposite. Mr Bennet disengages from his family and retires to his library – my Dad was always there for us. In Balzac’s Eugenie Grandet, the father is a miser – Dad was the most generous man alive. Like Bob Cratchit, he loved family celebrations. Like Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird he had a great sense of justice and kindness to all (he served as a Justice of the Peace for almost 50 years, making him one of NZ’s longest serving JPs). Like Mr Emerson in A Room with a View he was a humanist. Unlike Pap Finn, Huck’s father, he never drank to excess. Like Jean Valjean (Les Misérables) and Matthew (Anne of Green Gables) he became ‘adopted’ father and grandfather to many children, and like Father William in Lewis Carroll’s poem, he achieved amazing physical prowess even when aged 90 (he was an international tennis champion in the 90-95 year age group).

Books depict neglectful fathers (I love Mr Darling in Peter Pan who moves into the dog kennel after being unable to keep his children safe at home), absent fathers, hypochondriacal ones (Mr Woodhouse in Emma is a favourite), comical ones and cruel ones. They show the problems arising from fathers who die young (David Copperfield is an example). Not so many portray wonderful fathers, parents who love, instruct, encourage and genuinely further the happiness of their children. I was lucky in having the best Dad and I will miss him hugely. He loved books, was a great reader of this newsletter, passed on to me a loud, clear voice which has been a fabulous asset in my lecturing, and loved my unusual choice of career.

If you still have your Dad, please take time in the next few days to tell him how much you care, and feel grateful that you have him still in your life. For those of us without fathers, let’s reflect on how they have enriched our lives.

Bye Dad, I loved you so much and have been proud to be your daughter.

“Regular visits to the local library, with or without my children, have been one of the great joys of my life.” – Ashley Wilson

What do you remember about your dad? Tell me your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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Featured image- Image by Freepik & Ashely Wilson by Susannah Fullerton

Comments (39)

  1. Simon Farley

    May his memory always be a blessing. Those who love and not separated forever. He waits for you at the end of life’s journey…

    “I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
    I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

    I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
    If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

    You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
    But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
    And filter and fibre your blood.

    Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
    Missing me one place search another,
    I stop somewhere waiting for you.”

    Walt Whitman
    Leaves of Grass

    • Susannah Fullerton

      It’s a wonderful and moving poem, isn’t it. Many thanks for sharing it with me and for your kind sympathy.

  2. Helen Gentle

    Thank you, so much, Susannah, for sharing your wonderful thoughts on your father. Dads are so influential in their daughters lives, and live on with us for the rest of our lives. I still miss my dad very much after 30 years. It is the little things: how to cut up a pumpkin, how to plant seedlings, how to take risks and have faith in my abilities. Thanks dad.
    Condolences to you and your family.

  3. Grace Rektsinis

    Susannah, very sad for you, losing your father. Sincerest condolences. My father was a special person too. He had 4 daughters, not a son, but my eldest sister’s husband made up for that. My parents were immigrants from Greece, arriving in early 1920’s but my sisters and I were all born in South Australia. My father worked hard to provide for his family, for the future of his girls, to have a good education, a comfortable life, and we did. He was fluent in English as well as Greek, including letter writing. Truly admired by us, and always grateful. My mother too was an amazing woman, always self taught, loved having just daughters and we always remained close.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks so much for your sympathy. It is so hard to lose a Dad. Your Dad sounds very special too – not easy to leave all you know and start a new life on the other side of the world, raise and support a family, and find work. My Mum died when she was only in her 50s and I miss her every day of my life. She gave me my deep love of literature.

  4. Ruth Wilson

    Susannah dear friend, I feel for you, but I envy you too. The loss is great, and the pain is hard to bear, but what a gift you received when you drew this particular father in life’s lottery. I hope that your memories will sustain you as you continue on your wonderful way.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Dearest Ruth,
      Thank you so much for your kind sympathy and words. I was indeed lucky to have such an amazing Dad. All my memories of him are wonderful and I know that once the pain of new grief has eased, those fabulous memories will console me.
      I am so lucky to have fabulous friends like you who have helped me so much during this difficult time.

  5. Honey

    My Dad was neglectful and worse. I have never known what it is like to have a loving Dad. And I have never known what it is like to miss a Dad.
    How lovely to have had a marvelous Dad who did all the right things. Celebrate the lovely life you had with him.
    So sorry for your loss.

  6. my mum and dad have both been dead a very long time. i remember dad putting on the tiny kerosene lamp in our bedroom each night so myself and my sister did not get scared. He was a polio victim so wore a leg caliper his whole life. but he kept on keeping on. sorry to hear about your dad. it is so hard to lose them.

  7. Louise

    Hello Susannah,

    I feel your sadness on the loss of your dear Dad. During the recent (and very wonderful) Scandinavian trip, you expressed your concern to the group that your Dad hadn’t felt well and had been taken to hospital. We felt so relieved for you when he quickly recovered. My Dad died of pancreatic cancer when I was 14 years old, but I carry with me vivid memories of his admirable work ethic and the strong values that his five children witnessed. Mum capably performed the roles of two parents to us all and I treasure the wonderful memories of my extremely close bond with her, which I still feel 18 years after her death. I know that your bond with your special Dad will enable him to live on forever in your heart. May this provide comfort at this very sad time.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Your Mum sounds amazing – not easy to cope with young children on your own after losing a beloved partner.
      Many thanks for your kind sympathy. It’s a month today since Dad died and I am still feeling very fragile and the grief very raw. I know it will just take time, and at least all my memories of him are wonderful ones.

  8. Elaine Cox

    Hi Susannah, I would like to add my condolences too.
    It does leave a big hole and this takes quite a while to diminish.
    When I was a teenager, my Father would bring me books
    from his work library thus giving me an interest in reading.
    How lucky were we to have solid childhoods. Elaine Cox

  9. Karin Riordan

    Our condolences to you and the family Susannah.
    I recognise that the passing of your dear father is very difficult and at certain moments of your day,it can be heartbreaking.
    When my mum passed I was forlorn as she was a special friend as well as my mum. The memories I have, the ongoing sadness that lingers, is a reminder that she is still with me. She lingers on in my life.
    Once the memories fade that special person sitting on your shoulder, the voice in your ear with that reliable guiding hand is gone. Treasure and nurture those memories.
    How fortunate you were that you were able to spend time with your dad last year. The coming together for his 90 th birthday is now all the more special.
    In your busy life take time and be kind to yourself. Karin R

  10. Pam Blackwell

    Susannah Hi,
    How wonderful your father was and how fortunate you were to have him with you for such a long time. What wonderful memories you are blessed with.
    My heartfelt thoughts go out to you and I send you wishes of healing.
    Pam Blackwell

  11. Lyn Stephenson

    Our condolences Susannah on your Dad passing.
    I always remember my own dear Dad whenever I look at the moon as he sang or whistled Blue Moon often whilst working.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Music is so evocative, isn’t it, in bringing back memories.
      Many thanks, Lyn, for your kind sympathy. I know it will take time but at the moment my grief feels very raw.
      Hope to travel with you both again some time.

  12. Margaret Debenham

    I was so sorry to see the news about your father, Susannah. I remember when he came to one of your talks at AGNSW – you asked him to speak to your (very large) audience, and, quite unintimidated, he did it beautifully. He was clearly so proud of you (as you so clearly were of him). You were fortunate to have him in your life for such a long time.

  13. Ginna

    Dear Susannah,
    You and your siblings were so blessed to have such a wonderful father (and probably mother as well)? All the love, encouragement and patience he had for you all. It is a tribute to him that you and your siblings miss him so much. Fathers are far more important to all of us than we given them credit for.

    My father patiently taught me how to tie my shoe laces at 5 when I was in tears of frustration. I’ll never forget how kind and patient and loving he was at that moment. Every time I ties shoe laces he’s in my heart. These little acts of love and kindness count a lot in our lives!

    Ginna Hastings

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I think it is in the little moments that good parenting is really felt – parents who make time to teach us small things that make a difference, and give us their time. Both my parents always did that.
      Many thanks for your kind sympathy. I’m still feeling very fragile at the moment and I know only time will help.

  14. Diana Paulin

    So sorry about your Dad Susannah. My Dad died in July 1999. He was a tall, quiet, compassionate man and I miss him every minute, always will. You always tell me I have said this before, I could not possibly have said this before. I have not written about my Dad to you, and I am also writing a note of condolence.

  15. Diana Paulin

    So sorry about your Dad Susannah. My Dad died in July 1999. He was a tall, quiet, compassionate man and I miss him every minute, always will.

  16. Margi Abraham

    Oh Susannah, I’m so glad you could be with your Dad in his final weeks. What an inspiration he was and still is, not only to his family. I hardly knew my father as a child, as he was a sea captain and away for long periods of time. I do remember him packing library books into his trunk before he left each time. He was allowed to borrow many more than me! But I got to know him better as I grew up and grew to love him dearly and miss him to this day. You might recall I wrote an article for Chronicle for the anniversary of the publication of Persuasion, relating how I came to understand why I love this novel so much and Captain Wentworth is my favourite Austen hero. My Dad! May your Dad continue to inspire your life, your work and your friendships.

  17. Jenny Sha

    Susannah condolences on the passing of your Dad.
    Convinced they don’t make them like ours of old.
    Go with your grief and emotions it’s all about acceptance.
    Memories of our parents never die so they live on through us.
    Jenny Sharp

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks so much, Jenny. I am trying to find time to do nice things for myself – walks, comfort reads, being with good friends. I do so appreciate your words of sympathy.

  18. Lisa

    Sussanah, I am so sorry to read of the passing of your wonderful father. My love and thoughts go to you and your family. The little piece you have written above about your father and other fathers in literature has brought tears to my eyes. Your father sounds like he was such a genuine, kind and inspirational man.
    My father was the same – a true gentleman, kind and caring and generous to a fault. I haven’t lost him, as such, but he is in the later stages of dementia so I have lost the man he was. I am so grateful though that I can visit him and give him a hug.
    Lots of love to you.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks for your kind words, Lisa. Dementia is so tough on all concerned, and I do sympathise with what you are going through.
      We are lucky to have had fathers who set us wonderful examples, gave us so much love and support, and who we can remember with love and admiration. I do so appreciate your kin sympathy.

  19. Wendy Taylor

    Susannah – thank you. I loved your special words of your heart-felt memories of your dear late father. They recalled my memories of my dear dad … his approach to life and life’s interesting and challenging pathway and all those he met and worked with along the way, especially his love of his family. Dad loved poetry and memorising and articulating particular spoken ones or presenting them per his rich baritone voice in song (accompanied by my mother on piano). His encouragement to my sister and I of reading a variety of literature whether stories or poetry – tragic, humorous, historical, ‘ordinary’ – reverberated throughout our lives and to this day, long after he has left us.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Fathers who read to us are a special blessing! My Dad used to take us all to the library once a week so we could choose books. If we were lucky, he also bought abig cake of chocolate, so we could read and eat choc at the same time – still, in my view, a perfect combination!
      Thanks so much for your kind sympathy. I am feeling surrounded by care and kindness.

  20. Kathryn Kohn

    Dearest Susannah,
    I distinctly remember talking about your dad and his tennis skills. You were so proud of his continued full engagement with life. I sensed that he played a major role in guiding you through life. I’m so sorry you have lost him, but am so happy that you had such a wonderful influence from your loving father.
    My dad left when I was 11 yo and I never saw him again, but I do have a very happy memory of doing the crossword puzzle with him every night. To this day I do the xword daily and think of him

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks so much for your kind sympathy, dear Katie, and just lovely that you have signed up for my new Gold Class programme.
      I hadn’t realised your Dad had left when you were still so young. My Dad also loved crosswords, so I think of him when I do one each day. I was lucky to have him for so long, but am still really grieving his loss.

  21. Marie Edwards

    Susannah, I am sad you lost your father last month and happy you had a wonderful relationship with him. I too have sad news. Neville recently peacefully died at home from pancreatic cancer on the 8th October. I am still processing it all. He was ill for 4 months. I still think fondly of our wonderful trip to Northern France with you years ago.
    Marie Edwards

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Oh Marie, I am so very sad to hear about Neville. He was a lovely man and so full of enthusiasm for life. Grief is so tough, isn’t it. You feel for a whle you might be getting more used to it, then something suddenly hits you – a memory, a piece of music, a smell – and you are plunged deep into grief again.
      Thinking of you at this very sad time. Thanks for your kind sympathy about my Dad.

      • Cathy Morrison

        My Dad spent time while serving in Egypt during WW2 learning poetry. He loved long poems like IF, MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER and CLANCY OF THE OVERFLOW. He would then recite them to us when on long caravan trips. We loved them, and we all have an appreciation of poetry, and performance.

  22. Janis Rothermel

    I am very sorry for your loss. So glad you had a great dad. My dad gave me the gift of loving sports- watching them and going to see them. My mom gave me my love of books. She started reading to me the day she brought me home from the hospital. Visits to the County library happened once or twice a week. I remember toddling back to the car each time with an armload of toppling over books. So blessed to still love watching sports and loving books. Thoughts and prayers sent to you for your loss.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Many thanks for your kind sympathy, Janis. We have been lucky to have parents who introduced to us to the wonderful world of books!

  23. Patrick Alley

    I had the great privilege and pleasure to know Ashley for the last seven years of his life. There was something of Danny’s father in Ashley. I’m referring to Roald Dahl’s “Danny Champion of the World” He was slightly mischievous, innovative, very kind and loving to children, on the side of the under dog and deeply troubled by ostentatious wealth. He’ll always be loved and never forgotten

  24. Aimee

    Very sorry to hear about your dad’s passing, Susannah. I work at St Heliers Library and I heard about your newsletter from your dad – he popped in one day and told us all about it 🙂 Condolences from the team here xo

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks so much, Aimee. Dad loved St Helier’s Library and walked around the waterfront most weeks to change books and borrow. I also love the library – it was my childhood and teenage haven and the books I borrowed there gave me so much joy. It was good to see it had been so nicely renovated and is now fully open again.

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