Of love & long distance air travel:
Juli was living in Dallas; I was in Hawai`i. For nearly a decade we lived within miles of each other on the east coast. We had mutual friends and - by later accounts we figure - we almost met at countless parties, events, and gatherings. It wasn't until we both moved west - and lived 3,700 miles apart - that our paths finally crossed.
On April 30, 2009, delayed and canceled flights threatened to keep me from leaving Hawai`i to attend a good friend's surprise birthday party in Dallas. I pled with airline reservations agents and barely made it onto one of the last flights leaving the island... I faced multiple connections, lost luggage, and a chance I'd be stuck somewhere on the west coast. As I strapped myself into my seat for the first leg to Portland, I had no idea how lucky I was. Nearly 16 hours later, I stood - reeking of air travel - in my friend's kitchen in Dallas. I remember it now like a favorite movie played out in my mind. As I stood there recounting my struggle to get off the island in time for the surprise party, Juli walked into the kitchen. We locked eyes over a kitchen counter - and there were sparks. As we talked I knew we had a special connection. That night, when we touched, there were sparks. I'd heard from friends that when you meet the person you'll spend the rest of your life with "you know." Up until that moment I was skeptical. Now I am a believer. The weekend was a whirlwind of reunions with friends living around the country. The first night Juli and I danced without music at a bar with no dance floor. The second night we stayed up all night talking. When I had to leave the next morning to fly back to Hawai`i I asked for her number. She was hesitant... despite later admitting to the same spark I felt, she didn't believe I'd call. I did. The next day from a parking lot on Maui, I called the woman who would become my life partner. The next day I called again, and the day after, and the day after. Three weeks later I was on a plane back to Texas for our very first date. We talked almost every day. For hours on end. At first Juli quizzed me and interrogated me. I tried to patiently answer every question. As our relationship grew and evolved we shared our lives across time zones. Sometimes we would sit quietly on either end of the phone, sometimes we would video chat and, when we could, we would travel to be together. While dating long distance we moved Juli further east from Texas to Baltimore. After 2 years of dating long distance and a hefty bit of air travel, I left Hawai`i and we made a shared home on the east coast. The proposal: I can't remember when I started shopping for rings. The search began in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, spread across the internet, and meandered the shops and jewelry stores of Washington, D.C. (my hometown). One lucky afternoon I found a little jewelry shop in Georgetown. The owner, Dino, and I talked for about 1/2 an hour and we agreed to work together to design Juli's engagement ring. Dino and I met several times after that; we shared stories about our lives, talked about my life with Juli, and sketched ideas for the ring. Juli had no idea I was thinking of proposing or that I was designing her ring. I hid the ring in the house and plotted how to ask the question. In February we received sad news: the vet told us to say goodbye to our GirlCat, Juli's friend and constant companion (along with GirlCat's brother FatCat) for over 17 years. After a couple of weeks of tears and of trying to make our friend comfortable, we decided to venture out for a quiet dinner in the neighborhood. It was the Friday after Juli's birthday. The food was great. We laughed and shared happy memories of our sweet little cat. Burning a hole in my pocket was the ring I'd been hiding in our home for weeks. Since the moment we met in a kitchen in Dallas I knew there was something special about Juli. Long before I left Hawai`i I knew I wanted to spend the rest f our lives together. And I knew I wanted to ask Juli to join me in the adventure we call life before we said goodbye to GirlCat - while our little family still had time together. Visions of grand gestures danced in my head before giving way to more important considerations.
That night in February - walking home through our neighborhood - I knew it was time. In our kitchen, before we even took our jackets off, I was down on one knee, ring box in hand. Juli forgets what I'm sure was a river of sweet, carefully crafted words, my graceful reflections on adventures shared, and my proposal that we commit to a lifetime together. Fortunately she figured out that I was proposing. Best of all - through what I believe were tears of joy - she said yes. The future:
Our brief engagement has been filled with excitement and sadness: friends welcomed and are expecting babies; family members and loved ones are struggling with health issues and loss. This October we will join our closest friends and family members on the beach in Riviera Maya to celebrate the love we found the life we are building together - one more happy occasion added to the mix.