From the beginning, I thought he was a good guy and during high school he just got better. He was handsome and athletic — a member of the school lacrosse team. As a nice bonus, Garrett was also a good student, excelling in science and math courses. Best of all, from my point of view, Garrett was a good person. He had his head on straight and was friendly with everyone. He always treated me with kindness and respect.
In high school we grew closer when several of us began hanging out together during school breaks, after school, and on weekends. One day Garrett invited me to have lunch with him at a Berkeley Mexican Restaurant, called Cancun’s Taqueria. He gave notice concerning his intentions by picking up the tab for the meal, paying for it out of his meager allowance, which meant that he would be eating PB & J sandwiches for lunch for a week, or so. However, we had a great time together in that Mexican Restaurant, so I guess he felt repaid for the sacrifice. We were a couple from that point on.
We dated through high school and graduated in 2004. I enrolled in San Francisco State, which posed a real problem for our romance, because Garrett was accepted to UCLA. Garrett had checked out a number of schools before settling on UCLA but the school offered the best program for the Chemical Engineering profession that he was pursuing. We had a number of soulful discussions about the choice, and he even asked me if I thought he should find a closer school. I’m thankful that I was smart enough to not play him in one direction or another and knew better than to force him to make a life choice simply to satisfy my own feelings and desires. He needed to make the decision on his own. So, even though it was a wrenching thing for me, I encouraged him to take the UCLA offer.
We both agreed that it wouldn’t be fair to engage in our new lives as college students, with all the social things that go along with that, while remaining tied to a distant romance. We figured the only way it would be possible to break up was to make the break complete, so for the next six months Garrett and I had absolutely no contact with each other. I went on a few dates but found it impossible to get into any kind of relationship with another person while my heart was overflowing with love for Garrett and my mind filled with memories of the times we had spent together. I was hoping he was okay, but my own life had becomestuck because of the aching loneliness of Garrett’s absence.
One day, when Garrett was home on break, we accidently ran into each other. It took only a few moments to discover that Garrett had been no happier in my absence than I was in his, so we decided to call the break off and fled back into each other’s arms. A long distance relationship might be difficult, but each of us found life apart from each other to be impossible.
We began spending time together every day on the phone and texting. At least twice a month I would drive down to UCLA and spend the weekend with him. Garrett would come home for school breaks. It was a busy time for him. Besides studying the difficult courses required for his Chemical Engineering major, he played first-string on the UCLA lacrosse team. As often as possible, I would be in the stands cheering him on. Even if they were playing the Berkeley Bears, I was cheering the UCLA Bruins on to victory. Of course, Garrett liked having me in the stands cheering him on at the top of my lungs.
One of the great episodes of my life happened during a summer break when Garrett was on a study-abroad program in Europe. I met up with him in Paris, and we spent a month traveling around Europe, staying in youth hostels, and having a fantastic time together. My previous foreign travel had been limited to Mexico, so I was continually dazzled by the things we did and saw during those unforgettable days and the excitement of exploring new places together, visiting museums, strolling hand-in-hand down picturesque European streets, and marveling at actually seeing with our eyes iconic structures, like the Eiffel Tower.
You find out what a person is really like when you travel with him, so spending all those miles, hours, and days together proved a good test of our relationship. Garrett is a gifted planner and one unforgettable day we missed one of the connections on a complicated system of bus and train connections he had planned to get us to some destination. It was a sticky hot day. We were sitting there with our heavy backpacks, sweating, and feeling sorry for ourselves, when a pigeon walked up to Garrett and took a dump right on his shoe. Our feelings of disappointment were completely swept away in gales of laughter at the ridiculous and unexpected event. When we had to say goodbye our parting was a tearful bittersweet farewell as I boarded the plane for the long solitary trip back to California and to school.
Garrett graduated a year before I did andconducted a number of job interviews in places around the country. Just as with the choice of college, however, I never put any pressure on him to remain in California. Fortunately, he ended up taking a position at the Richmond EPA Office. It was a relief not to have to face the question of whether I would pull up roots and follow him to some remote place like Boston or Dallas.
Following Garrett’s graduation from school, we dated a couple years and, in 2010, decided to move in together. I had never lived apart from my parents, so house hunting was an exciting adventure. This was a scary move for me because I knew that if things didn’t work out for us, Garrett and I could never go back to being girlfriend/boyfriend. Fortunately, life with Garrett turned out to be even better than I hoped. We’re both big sports fans and enjoy watching the Golden State Warriors and the 49ers together. We adopted a big friendly lab mix rescue dog, and named him Ellis (after the famous Warriors ballplayer).
One of the best parts of living with Garrett turned out to be coming home to find him preparing one of his amazing dinners. His mom taught him to cook and he serves the best Fettuccini Alfredo I ever ate, making his own noodles and sauces from scratch. I would gladly eat it every day and eventually become too big to fit into the apartment, but Garrett wisely serves it only on special occasions. I also enjoy his killer breakfasts. He has delicious recipes and presentations. He’s also an ace grill-man serving delicious steak, fish, and chicken dishes. Garrett’s example caused me to step up my own game in the kitchen. I began studying recipes and discovered a gift for baking. I can make delicious scones.
Marriage was on my mind, especially after so many of my girlfriends began getting married. Garrett and I had been together for a dozen years, and I sometimes wondered why it wasn’t happening for me. We had talked about marriage, but Garrett never moved past the talking stage. He needed space to do his own thing at his own time. Just as with his choice of school and work locations, I never tried to pressure him into marrying me. I knew that he would make the move when he was ready and was too wise not to try to get him to do so before he reached that point.
Garrett and I always spent Thanksgiving dinner with our individual families and would then get together for dessert. Thanksgiving Day, 2013, started normally. We took Ellis for a walk. Then Garrett announced he was going to play football with some high school buddies. “See you later,” he said. My little brother, Ricky, had spent the night with us, so Ricky and I drove together to my mom and stepdad’s place in Clayton. When I arrived, I found the street in front of their house jammed with cars. Mom greeted me at the door and scared me by saying, “I have to tell you something serious.” She ushered me through the house, into their lovely back yard, and then closed the door. As soon as I saw Garrett standing there in a tie and dress shirt, I figured what was happening. Garrett knew how important family is to me, and arranged to spare me the task of calling up relatives and telling them about the engagement. He had even made sure that my dad and stepmom were present to witness the act.
Garrett and I were a little dazed and dazzled by the nerve-wracking challenge of pulling the thing off in front of all those eyes, but he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him, while my entire family was peeking through the windows and watching. The guy had taken a long time to get to the point, but then he did everything right — the right place, the right moment, and even the right ring.
We decided to choose the wedding venue and then set the date depending upon what was available on the venue’s schedule. We settled on Pleasanton’s Palms Event Center. Our guest list was 180, and Palms was able to accommodate a group that size. We got good vibes from the place and loved the beautiful grounds. An on-site event coordinator was available to help with the planning. One of their two open dates was Halloween Day, 2014. Halloween had always been a big day for us. Even in college, I would make costumes for Garrett and me to wear. I knew the vineyards surrounding the event would be in beautiful fall colors, which would make the pictures spectacular.
We wrote our own vows and Garret’s college roommate, Lucas, married us. He did an incredible job keeping the service short and sweet. Lucas delivered some moving and memorable points about our relationship, describing how our paths had diverged and come together, and how Garrett and I had laid foundations for a successful marriage. We had candy apples as favors at the reception and my mom surprised me by arranging for everyone to be wearing colorful masquerade masks when we walked into the room.
We went honeymooning at an inclusive Cancun resort. We spent the first couple days relaxing on the beach, eating tacos, and drinking margaritas. Before we left, we visited Mayan ruins, went zip lining, snorkeling, and diving in sinkholes. It was perfect.
After only a few months of marriage, it’s difficult to know how to respond when people ask how married life is. We’ve been together for so long that marriage didn’t hold any surprises. Changing my last name brought us closer together perhaps but the fact is, the wedding only made something official that actually started years ago. Ever since that Mexican lunch that he paid for with his own allowance, Garrett and I have been connected by a love that is strong and enduring. Life is great and I’m sure that the best is yet to come.