The night I headbutted my Dad, and how it should have gone.
Hindsight gets better with age like a fine wine. The longer it’s been the more certain you are of what you should have done.
You probably don’t know the story, so I’ll tell it. As he’s not around to defend himself though please remember that a story has at least two sides, I can’t tell you his. After years of consideration, the night was my fault.
I should lead with background info. So I will. Here it is. My parents had divorced some years before this. Shock. Gasp. So modern.
Lets go way back. This was just before the start of my first not-work-experience job so that would put us in early 2008. A bright young twice college dropout who’d had another row with his mum.
This argument had ended differently. Mum had cracked. It ended with her saying the only option she had left was to kick me out if I wasn’t going to do be doing anything with my life otherwise.
My first mistake was I forgot who my mum is. The second mistake? Called her bluff.
Let me tell you some background information to this background information. The only woman I know stronger than my mum, is her mum. There’s never been a bluff made in that side of the family. I was out. She gave me until the end of the next weekend to sort myself a roof of some sort. In a side-hindsight this was one of my top 5 critical life pivots, without which my life would be infinitely different and probably worse.
Now I love a good trifecta of errors, but you can’t have very much of a trifecta without the tri, can you? I didn’t plan a thing. I didn’t ask friends for help, I didn’t even consider looking for a job or housing. I was an absolute muppet about the whole thing.
Monday came, and I went. When I realised at literally the last moment there was no bluff coming, no “ok you can stay on conditions x, y, z” I crammed as many items of clean clothing I could into a bag and went off wandering.
Where do you go when you’re freshly homeless? I’d remembered seeing a fellow hanging out near the Sainsbury’s supermarket at one point so I figured there would be a good start. Had a few quid, might need a few nutri-bars or something for my new nomadic life. Sainsbury’s it is.
Strawberry flavour, think I got 4 of them. Had one. Another. A third. Fat bastard. Saved the 4th for the rest of my life.
Having nothing else to do I had a wander down a nearby walk/bike trail, ended up in a bit of a graveyard. Figured the spooky factor would keep randoms away as long as I could spook them first, so found a nice spot to make base.
Night time came, and I hid in a bush. It might have been under a tree. In any case I definitely used my bag as a pillow, I remember that much. I had a wonderfully undisturbed sleep and was warm all night long.
No wait it was the opposite of that. Holy hell is it cold outside during the night as it turns out. Not terrible, it was decent enough weather, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Incidentally I was wearing my Dad’s old long coat, so that’s two generations that have roughed it in that. I should get it repaired (and lose weight so it fits)
After that I asked friends for help. When you need to cave, you cave fast and you cave hard. No time for egos when you’ve finished eating your one valuable possession for breakfast that morning.
I stopped with friends over the next couple of weeks, alternating between Emily and Fox. Then I was fast tracked onto a housing scheme. Yup, my time homeless was a day. I’m sorry if I’ve ever made it sound like it was a rougher time than it was. Just the one night. My only real hardship was acid reflux from the sugary fruit bar things with no Rennies on hand and it was a bit (but not very) cold.
I got a job during the time at the hostel. I didn’t make a budget. My living costs outweighed my income and I fell into rent arrears. I asked my manager of the time if she could tell the agency there was no more work for me. I’d worked it out that I could go back on the dole and have housing benefit pay the rent for a bit that way, as I’d not technically quit. She did. Life saver. Y’know I still see her now and then about the town, we smile and wave but it’s always when I’ve got somewhere to be. I need to make a point to say thanks.
I got another job after that. Still paid peanuts but these were like, premium grade, dry roasted peanuts. It was virtually across the road from were I was living. I hand delivered my CV and had an interview callback before I got home, got the job offer later that day in the pub. Friends were there, Dad was there. Of course he was, Dad was one of my best pals back then. I’m pretty sure he was one of my pals’ best pals too, we were always asking him to come out. Only rarely was it for him to buy us student types a drink or two. They all cheered, I felt uncomfortable. We all got wankered.
If I’m remembering right I then moved into another flat, stories of that place for another time. Got into arrears again, moved in temporarily with Dad.
The next six months (yes, months, I’m a dick) were a delicate balance. You see when my Dad moved out after the divorce he lived minimally in single room bedsits. Not bad if that’ll do you, but with two people under the one very compact roof tensions were high. Something I should have been more insistent on was rotating us between bed and sofa, he insisted I have the bed. Something I should have done was look for a place and move out.
One day, it snapped. We’d had a grumble about something I no longer remember. I went to bed. Dad had a drink. Did I mention yet he was an alcoholic? No? Whoops. Well, he was. He had a few drinks in fact. Every night. For 6 months. Tensions were high.
I’d been woken up by something. I had no idea what it was, couldn’t even replay it in my mind. Then it happened again. A manic, over-acted, evil villain of a laugh. The fuck?
Of course it’s Dad. Of course he’s eating my microwave meals (all of them. He had quite the feast going), scraping the plate deliberately with the knife and fork, laughing manically to himself. Who doesn’t do that at 2am? I seethed for a bit, memories of the argument flooding back.
In a dumb moment I decided to punish him. I know, from Dad’s pov this dickhead, under his roof lying in his bed not fucking off any time soon. This little prick decided to punish him.
How do you punish an alcoholic? Pour away their strongest alcohol at 2am of course. I did it. The vodka. Adrenaline was buzzing. You could sense it in the air. Dead silence. Maybe his breathing changed, maybe it was mine. In any case it was about to kick off. Neither of us spoke.
I had won.. He blinked. He backed the fuck down. I was alpha dog man, emerging victorious from the pissing contest. Out the way, elder. I’m the bloke now.
Speaking of blokey blokes, did my Dad ever tell you about the time he submitted a pilot script to the BBC, who told him it wouldn’t be watched by anyone? Who then later came out with Men Behaving Badly almost pitch perfect Dad’s script? Yeah Dad came up with Men Behaving Badly if you ask him. Also in another twisty turn he actually knew Neil Morrissey, introduced in season 2. They weren’t friends and there’s no claim to fame by proxy. Dad hung out with Neil’s brother, he rarely saw Neil.
That was a tangent. I went back to sleep. Approximately 15 seconds later I woke to find my Dad leaning over me. He later claims he was trying to turn the light off, at the time it looked like the fight had begun. Instinctively (honestly, I have no recall of telling my hand to do it) my fingers were digging into his neck arteries. Direct hit, his lights almost instantly started to fade.
When he was suitably subdued I let go. He recoiled, a mix of shock and lightheadedness. He stumbled against the wall. He wasn’t done that easily. At this point I should have just left the house, but I didn’t. We went back to the verbals. I probably threw a few nerve-hitting quips his way. He threw my bike light back.
I didn’t know what he’d thrown at the time, I found the light later in a million pieces. All I knew was that something on my head was busted, cause there was blood pissing into my left eye. It later turned out forehead cuts bleed like a bastard, but I didn’t know that. For all I knew half my head was caved in and another attack was coming.
I grabbed the nearest weapon-like object, an umbrella, and used it to make him back off. A couple of quick jabs with the handle end. He didn’t back off. What actually happened was he grabbed the umbrella and we had a bit of a tug of war. I lost my grip, he had the handle end. Dad began mockingly jabbing the pointy end towards my face, jeering with words I have also long since forgotten.
Enough was enough. Someone’s (worse, I’m) going to have an eye out if this goes on. I re-grabbed the umbrella and used it to to-and-fro our way into the kitchen. He was still yanking the brolly. I was still yanking the brolly. Stalemate.
Not stalemate. I allowed him to pull the umbrella from me, he adjusted to avoid losing balance. I pulled him into *CRACK* — a mean headbutt. He went onto his arse. The brolly was mine. I threw it behind the sofa. Seconds pass, blood pisses from the pair of us, the TV continues as if nothing’s happened. Offered the old man a hand to get his stunned arse off the floor, rejected. His ego won’t let him let me help him right now.
I’m sure it was him that taught me that one. Old man was holding back. Or just really too drunk for headbanging. Blood was everywhere. In terms of who’s painted what, he was in the lead. He goes to the bathroom to clean up. The fight is over.
The bathroom door was between the living room and exit. I felt trapped. I’d definitely busted something major and I’d heard Dad was a bit of a brawler as a younger man. There’s nothing he’d have loved more than to clean himself up and go for round 2. I had to bail.
I called the police. If you’d ever asked him, he’d have called me a grass. If you ask me, I did it because I was shocked at how much damage a single headbutt does. I didn’t want to kill the old man, Jesus. When he came back from the bathroom it was without his two front teeth.
Back in the living room now, Dad sat back down on the sofa. Ignoring me. As if I wasn’t there. No eye contact, no acknowledgement. Downed his sherry, poured another. Downed that one too.
I got dressed and packed my stuff into my rucksack. Here we go again. As I left the flat Dad said “I thought I was going to come out of the bathroom to find you with a knife. I’m glad I didn’t”. I closed the door.
Bloody police actually showed up didn’t they? Almost immediately. Blues on (no twos). See, there’s more back story. Dad had been in fights. Some he’d started, some he’d been the victim of. The police knew Dad.
They carted him off to the station and I gave a statement. The police suggested I don’t file charges as it’s my Dad, bit weird of a thing to recommend but I’m glad I didn’t. The old man didn’t need more hassle, he needed my arse gone.
I left. Cleaned up the mess we’d made and I went to live back at mum’s house. See it turns out what I really needed to do was have a job and be respectful of the house. I later moved out of there into a flat near work with a friend.
I used to tell this story with a sort of joyous glee. How many nerd-ass nerds get to one up the former pack leader? The man of the house. The man who had been making your previous six months a living hell. In hindsight, at a certain point I’m just bragging about beating up an old drunk man. He just happens to be my dad.
There are many things that should have happened. I could have looked for a flat sooner with the money I was instead spending on nights out and loans to Dad for booze. I should have not decided to blam a full bottle of vodka down the sink. I shouldn’t have cracked him in the face with my forehead. I shouldn’t have been there that long.
If the same scenario were to repeat itself, you know what I’d do? I’d pour us both a double and call him a cunt for waking me up. We’d watch some telly or a film. Chill.
Goodbye old man. I miss when we were friends.