Sunday, June 21, 2009

He Named Me After Bob Dylan

25 years ago, I was born. Before the monumental event of my birth, my father found a hero in Bob Dylan. He saw him as an artist, a renegade and a genius. He appreciated Bob Dylan's work so much that he decided to name his first-born son after the musician. His love, respect and admiration for the great poet was put into a seed: my first name.

For my entire life, I've known who I was named after. Knowing that my name was meaningful and inspired gave me a sort of regard for my namesake. But up until a few years ago, that was all I felt for Bob Dylan. I knew he was a big deal somehow, but I never really understood just how huge his impact on our modern world really was. As many of you know, I've moved well beyond regard for Bob Dylan, into love and admiration. I know exactly why my dad named me after Bob Dylan, and if he hadn't done it already, I would probably name my first-born son Dylan as well. But he beat me to it. I have to be original with my boy's name. Whenever that happens.

Anyway, when my dad gave me my name, he was only planting a seed. He wasn't sure if I would understand what an important name it was. He hoped that I would someday become a Bob Dylan fan, but he would never try to force me. He just gave me the name, and left the rest up to me.

15 years ago, my dad went to a Bob Dylan concert. I was 10 at the time, and I didn't know he went to this concert, nor would I have cared had I known. I didn't appreciate the music of Bob Dylan when I was 10. I didn't care about music at all back then. But my dad did something at that concert that further nurtured my destiny to be a lover of music, art, and Bob Dylan.

He had great seats that night. This was the ump-teenth time for my dad, but this concert was a little more special than the others. Right up front and to the side, he could see Bob offstage as the crowd cheered for him to come out for an encore. Bob stood there with his guitar, all by himself. He looked out at the sliver of crowd that he was able to see from his back corner, and locked eyes with my dad. My dad looked back at him. Bob was scowling. My dad was subtly smiling, clapping his hands. He wanted Bob to come out and play another song. But the look on Bob's face wasn't convincing. It seemed possible that he might turn around and leave the building. So my dad, still in a staring contest with Bob, widened his eyes, tightened his lips, and nodded at Bob. Without mouthing or verbalizing anything, Bob understood what my dad had said. "Come on, Bob. Come on. Play another song." Bob never stopped looking into my dad's eyes. The scowl never left his face. But he nodded back, silently in agreement. And he walked back onto the stage.

After the show, my dad bought a t-shirt. But he never wore it. He intended it to be for his first-born son. But he wouldn't give it to me that night, he had no idea when he would give it to me, or if he ever would at all. He wouldn't give it to me for another 15 years. He was never interested in forcing his own interests upon me. But he had faith that I would someday understand just what Bob Dylan means, and once that happened, he would celebrate by handing the shirt over to me.

A couple weeks ago, my dad gave me the shirt. I never knew it existed, he had kept it hidden in his room for all this time, waiting for the right moment.

"I thought about giving it to you when you turned 21, but I could just tell that you weren't ready yet. I had to make sure that you were a true Dylan fan."

He had never been more excited about giving a gift. The seed that he planted 25 years ago had finally grown into what he hoped it would become.

This Father's Day, I think about the man who named me after Bob Dylan. The man who planted seeds in my life, but never forced me to do anything that I didn't believe in. He never tried to make me his. He wanted his son to be an individual. Independent. He wanted me to be as freewheelin' as Bob Dylan, thinking for myself, living for no other.

By giving me that shirt, he has shown me great love. He has revealed that he is proud of the man I have become. My childhood is over, and it is my dad who helped grow me to the point I'm at today. He trusts me to make my own decisions. He loved me, because he didn't try to control me. He nurtured my growth, and now I am grown.

And now I'm a disciple of the Jewish harmonica player. Not because my dad told me I should be, but I saw the truth in his actions, through his good example. He dutifully followed the teachings of Bob Dylan, and it has impressed me. But none of this truth was shoved down my throat, it came by my own experience.

I am so proud of the name my father gave me. It revealed his own belief in art as something that can continue beyond his generation. He believed that I could someday write poetry like Bob, or affect the lives of others the way Bob affected him. And I am so grateful for his faith in me.

Dad, I will not give up, even when those around me are in disagreement with my choices and don't believe in me. I will be strong. Even when my peers are telling me that I'm crazy, I will not abandon my ideals. I will take the name that my father gave me and hold it in the highest regard. And I will wear this t-shirt. Not merely as a "Dylan fan," but as a man who will soon find himself in fatherhood, and will take the lessons that his father gave him for his own son. I will not force-feed anything to those who I love, but will simply love them. And by example, I will show them that they, too, can be artists.

If Bob Dylan could do it, so can I. After all, we're all just men.

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