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This Ain't No Fairytale
In honor of the 32nd Wedding Anniversary of Andre and Cheryl Guess, I will be sharing the lessons I learned from their marriage.
My little sister, Morgan and I grew up watching all the corny love stories. From Disney princess movies to Adam Sandler's rom com movies all the way up to the old black classics. If you were to ask me what my favorite movie was today I’d say Jumping the Broom. I always believed that there was this mystical power of love; that love could heal all wounds and transcended lifetimes. Why wouldn’t I believe that? My parents were undeniably in love. Not everyone around me could say their parents were soulmates. That’s a true blessing. But, the older I’ve gotten the more I’ve realized that my parents' love isn’t something you see in the movies. They won’t make a notebook-esque love story about their marriage. My parents' love is true and real, unconditional and committed because they chose each other.
I’ve learned three lessons from my parents: love is spiritual not material, love shines brightest in the dark and love is a choice. As women we are socialized and conditioned by society to praise and even aspire to have the type of love you see in the movies, but my father made sure we knew differently. I have two sisters and a brother and I was raised by a man who grew up with five men in his household. Was I spoiled? Absolutely, but my father disabused us of the sappy girl-dad type of love because he always wanted us to know what true love was when it presented itself to us.
I always think back to a conversation I had with him a few years ago. In it, he told me:
“My goal was to raise my daughters and love them for real, not in a sappy Daddy’s girl kind of way, but in a true deep and abiding love that affirms them in a way that they would know what love was when it presented itself to them. Love means putting your foot in their asses sometimes. Telling them things they don’t want to hear, but at the same time letting them know that you will be there for them no matter what. That’s a spiritual love, not a material one. Much of what people understand about love is material”
A spiritual love he said. Over the past 32 years I have witnessed and I was created by a spiritual love. Two people who chose each other everyday. Two people who lift each other up when they need to be uplifted. Two people who pour into each others’ cups so they are full enough to pour into mine and my siblings. Two people who are not perfect by any means. They each have their flaws. But their flaws compliment each other so beautifully they come together to make one hell of a unit.
My mom always said she was the string to my dad's kite. He was meant to fly high and change the world but it was her job to bring him back down to earth when he had strayed too far. My mom sometimes doesn’t realize she can fly just as high. I believe my dad pulls her up when she needs to fly too. They love each other in the way God loves us. In a true abiding way but loving each other's flaws simultaneously. They push each other to be better. But mostly in dark times, they are each other’s light.
Our family has been through many hard trials. When I was younger my mother was very sick and we didn’t exactly know why. It turns out she had Crohn's disease. Throughout her days in and out of the hospital and through multiple surgeries my dad had to play both mom and dad. Figure out how to do my hair and my sister’s hair. Figure out how to feed small children (he made a bunch of weird food like ostrich burgers at first but he eventually got the hang of it). My mom told me there was a point in time when she was in so much pain and couldn’t sleep unless she fell asleep on my dad’s chest and could listen to his heartbeat. She shared it was the sound of peace to her, knowing he was there. As I got older I began to struggle with mental health issues and they had to be my rock. There were days my mom and I were ready to kill each other and my dad intervened. There were days my dad and I were ready to kill each other and my mom intervened. But unbeknownst to me, they were a unit. Even if I was with them one on one they had such a strong foundation that they both held me up even if the other wasn’t there. My mom always says she remembers the beautiful memories, but the hard times were the ones where their love was strongest. The times when she had no one but God and my father will be the memories she recalls the most. Through all the dark times, they chose each other.
They chose each other each and every day and they chose every single one of us. The one thing I’ve learned about love from the two of them is, it’s not even close to what you see in the movies. It's hard work. It’s commitment. It’s knowing that no matter what you would never deliberately do anything to hurt the person you love. Sometimes it may be done unintentionally but in every aspect of life you choose your partner. There was a point in time when my mom and I were miserable living in Pittsburgh. My mom wanted to return to Kentucky. My dad walked away from a six figure salary and chose our happiness over his career. One day I asked my dad what was the secret to a 30 plus year marriage and he said there are no deal breakers. There is nothing my mother could do to make him look at her differently, and there was nothing she could do that wouldn’t make him choose her. Marriage is a choice.
32 years, 11,680 days, of commitment. Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” I am blessed to have been made from unconditional love. I hope and pray that one day I am afforded the opportunity to love and be loved in this way. Not in a fairytale kind of way, but in a true Andre and Cheryl Guess kind of way. Happy 32nd Anniversary!
Kennedy Kehaulani Guess
The middle child