‘They both knew deep down they never stopped loving each other.’: Parents remarry in surprise wedding after 18 years divorced, dad sober 7 years

old wedding photo next to family of five at casual backyard wedding

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“My parents got married on April 11, 1992 in a small town of northern Illinois where they both grew up. My mom was 19 years old and pregnant with me at their wedding. She became a stay at home mom and welcomed my sister in 1996 and brother in 1999. They raised us in a very small town of southeastern Wisconsin called Salem. In 2003, my parents divorced. I was in fourth grade, my sister in first, and my brother was three years old.

Young couple get married while the woman is pregnant with their firstborn daughter
Courtesy of Shawna Geweke
Young woman in traditional wedding gown smiles big during her wedding ceremony
Courtesy of Shawna Geweke

My dad suffered from extreme alcoholism. After high school, he joined the Marines and broke his back, which is what stemmed the beginning of his alcohol addiction. The only memories I have of their short marriage is nothing but fighting, screaming, and yelling. My dad had multiple DUI’s and sadly couldn’t stay sober longer than six months. He was in and out of jail from the time I was little up until I was 22 years old.

Growing up he was rarely around. He went to jail in 2003, in the middle of their divorce, for over 6 months for one of his DUI’s. My mom had to race to find a job to help provide for us. Our house went into foreclosure, but luckily she was able to find somewhere to rent still in our school district. When my dad got out, he was sober and things were looking up. He seemed like his normal self again, but that time was cut short. Little did I know our journey would be like one of the windiest roller coasters.

Little girl writes a letter to her teacher asking for help with her parent's divorce
Courtesy of Shawna Geweke

Some days we would be sitting outside with our bags packed, waiting for him to take us for the weekend and he wouldn’t show up. This is when we knew he was drinking again and it seemed like the world around us started crumbling. My mom STRUGGLED for years after 2003. Making little money, and with no help other than from my grandparents, she was trying to make ends meet but it just wasn’t enough. I remember going through the drive thru at McDonald’s and we were only allowed to order off the dollar menu because it was all she could afford. She would order nothing for herself because the only money she had was dinner for us. Sometimes she would pay just with scrounged up change she could find lying around the house.

Watching both your parents struggle really takes a toll on you when you’re a kid. I went from feeling like I had everything to having absolutely nothing at all. I had to take divorce and anger management classes. Some of my friends weren’t allowed to have sleepovers at my house. I felt like everything was being ripped away from me over the years. I was angry, stubborn and had the ‘I don’t care what you say’ kind of attitude. It made me coldhearted and emotionless.

Young single mom of three takes a photo with her kids while they lean against a tree
Courtesy of Shawna Geweke

Every alcoholic is different. Some can function and still go to work the next day, while others could be on a binger for days or weeks at a time and can’t get themselves up the next day and go to work. That’s the kind of alcoholic my dad was. He crashed multiple cars, wrapped them around trees, and dodged death a handful of times. I used to pray he would never kill himself or somebody else.

In September of 2014, my dad got his last DUI, which put him into prison for 6 months, then into a jail that was strictly for men who suffered from addiction. I then had a two-year-old son who loved his Papa, so when he went away I had to continuously lie to him about where he was. I could not let my dad hurt my son like he hurt me and my siblings. The only way I thought he could ever get better is by his family showing him support. So I would drive 3.5 hours there and back to the jail every Sunday with my son and some of our family members to visit him. In October of 2015, I picked him up after serving his time to come live with me and my son in our one bedroom, one bathroom, TINY duplex. I helped him get back on his feet and remain sober.

Single dad recovering from alcoholism takes a photo with his three adult kids
Courtesy of Shawna Geweke

Both of my parents never married again after their divorce. They dated, but for some reason it never worked out and never seemed right. The guys my mom dated would tell her she was still in love with my dad, but she would always deny it. I think they both knew deep down that they never stopped loving each other, but a lot of damage had been done and my mom couldn’t forget or forgive him. It wasn’t until early 2017, after two years of being sober, when I started noticing my dad was spending a lot of time at my mom’s…and also a lot of flirting.

I was pregnant with my daughter when my mom told me my dad wanted to take her out on a date. A shock to us, yes, but after that long of watching my parents flirt, it didn’t come as much of a surprise. Today, my dad has been sober for seven years and they have been together ever since he asked her out on that date. They bought a beautiful home in 2019 where they get to enjoy it with their, now, 3 grandkids. My brother recently came home after serving four years in the Marines and lives with them, too.

They wanted to have a house warming party/welcome home to my brother this summer at their house. In early June, my dad asked my sister and I to go ring shopping with him so he could propose to my mom at the party. We were absolutely not allowed to tell anybody because he did not want her to find out, not even my brother could know! This whole summer we could not wait for the party so it could FINALLY happen!

Well, joke was on us. The entire time at the party I kept trying to figure out when my dad was going to propose and to warn me so I could be prepared. All of their friends and family were there to watch it happen, too. I noticed my mom turn off the music and then told everyone to sit down. I was super confused and started questioning if she already knew it was happening. But when I saw my aunt walk up with a folded up piece of paper and said, ‘In order for this party to start, I am going to need a couple bridesmaids and a best man,’ my jaw dropped. That was me, my sister, and my brother.

Woman smiles big and shows off her wedding ring at her Luau-themed surprised wedding
Courtesy of Shawna Geweke
Exes get remarried after divorcing in their backyard with their friends and family
Courtesy of Shawna Geweke

My parents had this entire party planned for them to get MARRIED. I felt like we were on the show Punk’d. My sister and I thought we were the cool ones keeping the secret from everybody, but this entire summer my mom knew. My aunt became ordained so she could marry them in their own home! We lost so much time with our dad due to his drinking addiction, but now we get our time back. As a mom, the only thing you want for your kids is for them to be happy. So for myself, my kids have their grandparents together, and won’t ever have to experience what we had to.

Forgiveness is powerful. Life has an interesting way of working out, but somehow it always does. It may bring you down the rockiest of roads, and take you down a couple wrong turns, but you always end up where you were supposed to be. This is exactly what happened for my parents.

Couple getting remarried after husband recovered from alcoholism share and intimate and loving hug during the ceremony
Courtesy of Shawna Geweke

I know not everybody deserves to be forgiven. It takes a strong woman to forgive a man who has done them wrong. I am so proud of my mom for remaining strong our entire lives, and I am beyond proud of my dad for remaining sober. I can’t imagine how hard it has to be. I believe in true love and soulmates, and that everybody has ‘their’ person. It turns out for my parents it was always each other. Their story is a love story that has made me a better person and maybe will give hope to others if they know somebody suffering from addiction, too. It is possible to change; you just have to want to put effort into trying.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Shawna Geweke.

Family of five reunited again after dad recovered from alcoholism take a family photo together
Courtesy of Shawna Geweke

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