Sunday, April 19, 2009

Happily Ever After: A Lesson and a Tribute

This was her second marriage.
This was his third.
They both had a history.
They both carried a lot of baggage.
He was several years older than her.
The odds were stacked against them.
Statistics implied that this marriage would end in divorce also.
People (including family) didn’t think it would last.

I am sure at one time they both dreamed of the perfect life. They wanted the fairy tale. No doubt they longed for the happily ever after.

As a little girl, as a starry-eyed teenager, as a young college student, as a green wife, as a new mother, as a divorced woman—I had a vision of what happily ever after looked like. I am not sure I ever articulated my definitions or expectations, perhaps not even with myself. I just knew there was a space within me that longed for the fairy tale.

Naively? Of course.

My definitions were naïve. They were unrealistic and based on culturally sentimental (secular and Christian) demands that were temporary and transient.

One of my long time favorite movies is Ever After with Drew Barrymore. This film is a retelling of the age old tale of Cinderella. A few wild twists and great character development add much interest to this formulaic plot. (Leonardo Da Vinci even appears; how he ends up in France, I am not quite sure).

My favorite quote from this movie is made by Cinderella’s great-granddaughter, the Grande Dame. She is relating the ‘real version’ of the story to the Grimm brothers. The movie ends with her words.

“And, while Cinderella and her prince did live happily ever after, the point, gentlemen, is that they lived.”

The point is that they lived.

We get so caught up with the happily ever after and whatever that entails at any given moment, in any given situation. We have allowed Hollywood and the Disney-fied versions to color and tinge this life state for us. We have traded something real for something air-brushed, compiled, and fabricated. We have traded the illusion of love for the Spirit-defined love of 1st Corinthians 13.

The happily ever after of this culture is rooted on appearance and physicality. Often it is based on what you have to offer rather than who you are. Frequently the happily-ever-after demands an arbitrary standard that does not and cannot exist.

I am rehabilitating my definition and expectations of happily ever after because over the years I have missed the point.

Remember the couple at the beginning of this post?

They will be married thirty-two years in October.

Let that sink in.

They have beaten the odds. They have defied the statistics. And they ignored the whispers and the negative talk. They determined their own definition of happily ever after. They wanted to live.

I asked them what advice they would give? What is their secret?

I got a two sentence answer.

Two sentences.

“Take care of each other.”

“Do things with each other; do what the other likes to do.”

I have observed them and their relationship. I have watched closely.

They live their philosophy.

“And, while they have lived happily ever after, the point, friends, is that they lived.”

I know this to be true.

This couple is my dad and my step-mother.

Their thirty-two years have not been necessarily the stuff of fairy-tales.

They have had more than their share of struggles and problems. They have endured the censure of family, they have struggled financially, they have lost all sets of parents, they have lost siblings. They have had to deal with an estranged daughter, they have had to cope with the horrible disease of MS ( they do physical therapy together every night), they have had to deal with horrible horse riding accidents (one was thrown from a horse and was in ICU for days).

Yet, their marriage has endured. They are admired, respected, and loved by many.

I love them both—

The day of my second wedding, my father took my face in his hands. He looked me in the eye (his were misted and so were mine) and he said to me, “Take care of each other. Enjoy each other, do things together.”

What an incredible redefining of happily ever after.

3 comments:

TARSmith said...

I've missed your writing. And today I find two posts. I'm blessed to read the writing and to love and be loved by the writer.

Mrs. Needham said...

Not all who wander do so aimlessly, they just don't know the reason...yet.

So happy for you.

Mac Goddard said...

Lord, have mercy!!