Rich and I went on our first official date on July 25, 1997. We ate dinner at Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant (now Pelancho’s at Downtown West), went ice skating, saw the movie Contact, then talked until almost 4 in the morning, a date capped off by a kiss that I still remember to this day. That year, he missed spending my birthday with me because he was sent to Norfolk for a business trip. He missed my birthday the next year because he had to move to Chesapeake in order to keep his job. And so began our long-distance relationship.
My third visit to Chesapeake was for Valentine’s Day weekend 1999. We indulged in our usual routine, trying to make the most of our short time together. That Saturday night, Rich treated me to an extravagant dinner at the members-only Town Point Club in the Norfolk World Trade Center. Since his company’s offices were down the hall from the club, he’d gotten to know some of the staff and got permission to take me to dinner there.
We got dressed up for our romantic pre-Valentine’s Day dinner, me in my pretty purple sheath dress and Rich in the one suit he owned. Our server was outstanding, taking our orders for every course up front. The club was beautiful, with the kind of romantic ambiance you can only dream of for a romantic dinner. A trio played the harp, violin, and cello nearby. While I was enjoying myself, I noticed how fidgety Rich was. He went to the restroom before we’d even started eating. He kept complaining about how loud the chamber music was, that he could barely hear himself think. At this point, I was worried I was boring him, hence his fidgeting and inattention.
After finishing our entrees, our server asked if we were ready for dessert, which we’d ordered at the start of our meal. He placed a silver-domed platter in front of me and stepped back. Rich stood up and said, “I think I should serve this to you.” He lifted the silver dome to reveal a diamond engagement ring in a velvet box, with a rose on the tray beside it. He then got down on one knee, took my hand in his, and asked, “Patricia Rebeca Sanchez, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” Stunned but deliriously happy, I said, “Yes, of course.” We kissed and hugged, and applause broke out. That’s when I noticed that not only had the chamber music ceased playing, but every other diner was watching us. All the waitstaff was lined up against the walls around the perimeter of the dining room. It was exactly like a scene out of a romantic movie, and infinitely more impressive and romantic than I ever would have thought Rich capable of being. He not only set but jumped over the bar that night.
It turns out that when Rich had said he was going to the restroom earlier he’d actually given our server the engagement ring. The server had then shared with everyone that there was going to be a proposal later in the evening. So everybody knew. Except me, of course.
Today is 13 years to the day since that wonderful, perfect night. things haven’t always been easy, or perfect. But we’ve weathered many storms together, as well as enjoyed all kinds of fun adventures and experiences. We’ve both significantly changed and grown, for the better, I believe. And we of course have our amazing daughter, Coraline, to show for it.
Thanks as always to Rich for being my best friend, lover, confidant, accomplice, and partner in crime. I couldn’t imagine it being any other way.