An Unexpected Bonanza.

Rachel and Sam with the dogs in 1995. Leech Lake, MN. ©Eli Reichman. All Rights Reserved.

The best gift my kids have ever given me is perspective.   Over time, their present has continually changed size and shape, always evolving.

This Sunday marks my seventh Fathers Day as a single parent.  At times the road has turned rocky, filled with ruts, but the kids and I have faced every twisted turn together and I’m happy to report the rewards have been tremendous.

As a young dad parenting advice flowed freely from all comers.  Family, friends, even the occasional unknown passerby never seemed hesitant in offering up their opinions, regardless of whether or not you asked for their input.  Oftentimes, the most vociferous tips seemed to have come from those blessed souls who themselves have not been duly baptized in this journey.  One learns early (and often) how to distinguish sage filled words of experience from others seemingly bent on perpetuating generational miscues.

In my career I’ve photographed several U.S. Presidents, a few Nobel Laureate’s and many other creative thinkers, but none of them can match the advice given to me by an unassuming gentlemen in the middle of Iowa.

It was during an annual report shoot that I met  H.D. “Ike” Leighty of Waterloo, Iowa.  In the course of a full days shoot you get to know people.  When he was younger, Ike had done a little single parenting too.  He related an incident with his then 16-year-old daughter where they’d been endlessly arguing over an insignificant incident and no apparent resolution was in sight.  Ike paused, and then told her, “You know, I’ve never had a 16-year-old daughter before and you’ve never been 16 before either.  So we’re both in uncharted territory here.  But, I think if we listen to one another, work together and treat each other respectfully, we’ll get through this just fine.”

Ike’s words continue to resonate within me today.  Imagine the possibilities if the entire world operated from such a vantage point.

Many people ridiculed  Hilary Clinton when she said, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but I will testify her use of that African proverb was spot on.  I thank everyone who’s touched my life with the many ideas and supportive words of encouragement you’ve provided through the years.  The simple truth is: we all need help parenting.  To believe any differently is toxic mix of sheer vanity touched with a bit of madness.

The discipline and dedication necessary for an individual to finish a marathon is extraordinary.  Covering 26.2 miles requires a willingness to sacrifice your body when your mind is crying out; “I want off this merry-go-round now!”  That is perhaps the most valuable lesson I gleaned from my time spent as a distance runner.  And I’ve learned that’s part of what good parenting is all about too.  It’s a tough juggling act and somewhat of an art placing your child’s needs before yours while still holding true to your core principles.  But, it’s well worth giving the full measure.

Life has its way of throwing everyone a curve ball when they least expect it.  One of my dearest friends was recently involved in a freakish life threatening accident.  A person of great wit, intellect and a generous heart,  Bill Donavan has a magical aura about him.  I can’t imagine this world without his spirited soul roaming the streets of Salida and thankfully he’s now on the mend at home with his own brood.  The message I’ve taken away from Bill’s ordeal is one we should all celebrate more frequently: live each day with a greater appreciation for the little things we too often take for granted.

With Rachel already a junior in college and Sam beginning his senior year in high school, my daily parenting will soon draw to a close.  Like many other parents, I’ve missed seeing my girl everyday, but I’m so pleased she’s set out on an intriguing path and I know when Sam begins his adventure, it will be equally as enticing.  I’m excited to see where the future takes them.

So Rachel and Sam, this year, let’s do a couple of laps on the river trail and then I’ll listen to you guys tell a bunch of bad stories.  That will make it a perfect day.  You see I really don’t need anything else from you for Fathers Day.  You’ve already done plenty.

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10 thoughts on “An Unexpected Bonanza.

  1. lisa – hahaha! (how are you??)GREAT advice at the end! :) bill, we’ve never met, but i’m so glad to hear you are feeling better! thoughts are with you.
    eli – they are great kids, huh? :)

  2. Eli,
    Thanks for giving us a peek into your life as a single Dad. Rachel and Sam are blessed to have a Daddy like you. It is a tough time to parent and with “original” families scattered across the country it is such a joy to experience and hear about “community families” like the one in Salida.

    One of my favorite quotes, in honor of Father’s Day: “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Elizabeth Stone

  3. What a nice little gift to receive in my email box, Eli. And very timely, to boot. I appreciate you including me. Thank you.

  4. Thanks for emailing me about this post. Funny, I was just thinking about some of the same things this morning. It’s not just the kid who is growing and learning and becoming a person. It’s the parent, too. I think everyone forgets that too often.

  5. BD! Look it’s you, typing away in full sentences. This makes me extremely happy! So good to hear what the amazing community of Salida has done for your family, but it doesn’t surprise me in the least. For it is a community in the truest sense of the word. I’m looking forward to the day we sit together and raise a glass. Love you!

  6. thanks for the good words Eli..did you know when I was in the ICU for those two weeks several guys got together and completed the rather large project of building my kid’s half-pipe. This allowed my return from the hospital to be made even better by the advent of a birthday party for my youngest, with all his friends, on his dream half-pipe. It was a huge community effort for my family, unforeseen, and necessitating time off work, money and organization. In addition to prepared meals and such, I’ve never seen a community step up and it’s been humbling. My kids watched the project unfold while I was in Denver, and I know they saw the generosity and carefree approach to family support, hopefully contributing to a sense of caring on their part if and when they become parents.

  7. That’s wonderful Eli. I don’t know when it became only a parent’s job to raise a child. When we were kids and came home saying the neighbor’s dad/mom had disciplined us for whatever reason my parent’s response was always, “Well, what did you do?” The reaction now is to sue or threaten.
    I realized with relief that I was going to be ok when I found a parenting book under the bed, dusty and unread and not dog-eared and book-marked next to the bed. I wish I could say I got the same sage advice on child-rearing that you did but the one I hold fast to is this, “Just try to keep him from being an asshole.”
    Either way good advice.

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