My father, my son, and I

As his son leaves the family home for university, David Barnett fondly recalls his late father, and wonders whether he’s done enough to prepare his own child for the world

Thursday 23 September 2021 00:01
<p>The male lineage of the Barnett family feels like a brittle thing </p>

The male lineage of the Barnett family feels like a brittle thing

I never felt my father’s ghost at my shoulder more keenly than on Tuesday. It has been five years since I lost him, which always feels to me an unusual thing to say. As if I had been careless and misplaced him, or let him wander off somewhere. And thinking about it, perhaps I did, in a way.

Journalism, which has been my working life since I was 19 years old, loves an anniversary: a neat one like a decade, or 20 years, or a century. But it is not the five years since my dad’s passing that brings his shadow falling over me; it is instead my own son’s departure for university – almost to the day of my father’s death.

We are a thin, brittle lineage of Y chromosomes, the Barnetts. My son has a sister, as did my dad. I am an only child. My paternal grandad, after whom my son is named, had brothers, I think, but I don’t remember them other than as vague uncle-ish presences in my childhood.

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