Like A Rolling Stone


For most of my life, whenever I needed advice, I turned to my dad.

Most of the time, it worked out great. My dad was a smart guy, both well-read and streetwise, so he could usually see the angles and draw on his own life experiences to provide adequate guidance for his chip-off-the-old-block malcontent of a son. Most of the time.

Of course, there was another side of my dad – playful, cryptic, awash in metaphors and in love with wordplay – that sometimes made it difficult to get advice out of him. Some of that was surely wanting to help but not wanting to do things for me – wanting to provide guidance but still understanding of the need for me to provide my own path. And, sometimes, he just wanted to mess around and straight up lie to me, mostly for his own amusement. Like the time I was around 6 or 7 and we were watching MTV together – hey, it was a novelty back then – and a live-concert video came on. I turned to my music-loving father and asked, “How does everyone in the audience know to raise their hands at the same time?” Without a nanosecond’s pause, my dad, this wise older figure, said, “Oh, concerts usually have the Hand Police working them. They patrol the crowd and make sure everyone has their hands up. If you’re not raising your hands, you have to leave.”

Or the time when I was faced with some huge-seeming but probably very minor dilemma in college – I don’t even remember what it was, but I remember my dad’s advice. I poured out whatever was on my heart and mind, and he quoted me several verses of Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.” Like I said, I don’t remember what the problem was or what the outcome was, but I’ll never forget my dad turning to me and saying “You’ve gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely/But you know you only used to get juiced in it/And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street/And now you find out you’re gonna have to get used to it.”

Now, as I sit here on my 38th birthday – my first birthday where I WON’T be receiving a call from my dad – I’ve got news to share and advice to seek, but only my memory to draw on. My phone won’t be ringing, but I have a feeling that, if I listen hard enough, my dad is still somewhere dispensing wryly-phrased but spot-on advice for his rolling stone of a son to hear. I need his counsel as much as ever today and even though his advice today might be harder to hear than in years past, it’s still probably in my best interest to take it.

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