Happy Friday, y’all! This week’s FF is a really special one. Remember when our dream came true earlier this year and our house was featured on Design*Sponge? Well, Garrett was the writer of that beautifully-worded article that so articulately told the story of Thomas’ childhood home, now our home.
Garrett and his boyfriend Aaron discuss meeting on Tindr, and how Garrett’s battle with cancer brought them closer together in a pretty short amount of time. We enjoyed getting to know them, and we think you will, too. Take a look below…
Where are you from? Garrett’s from Arlington, TX, and Aaron is from Detroit, MI.
Where do you live? We live a little north of the gay-borhood in Chicago, IL.
Instagram handle? @insta__gare and @aaronpwrz
Age: Garrett’s 30, and Aaron’s 33.
On their favorite trip together: Aaron: I’m not sure I could pick just one! Mexico City for the people, Italy for the culture and paninis or San Francisco for the first time I said “I love you” to Gare.
Garrett: I agree, Aar. It’s too hard to choose! I’d have to say San Francisco because it was our first trip together.
“I remember thinking, ‘Am I going to be stood up? Is he going to be a total kook?’ Spoiler alert: Aaron did in fact show up and was just enough of a kook. He was and will forever be my complement.”
On the uncertain, initial meeting: Garrett: We met on Tindr, and our first date was at a local spot called Uncommon Ground.
Aaron: I initially thought Garrett had photoshopped his Tindr photos to enhance his eyes. Although an adorable baby photo led me to believe he really was that doe-eyed, seeing him approach as I sat perched upon the edge of a flower pot was confirmation! I even texted a girlfriend “He’s real!” as we were seated at our table.
Garrett: I remember seeing Aar sitting on that flower pot and feeling a rush of relief. I hadn’t met up with anyone from Tindr before, so I was as little anxious. Beforehand, I remember thinking, “Am I going to be stood up? Is he going to be a total kook?” Spoiler alert: Aaron did in fact show up and was just enough of a kook. He was and will forever be my complement.
On taking the leap: Aaron: We were on a layover heading to San Francisco on our first trip together. I had just kicked back a crummy airport manhattan as we waited in a quiet corner of the terminal. Then I just said it. It felt right, so I took the leap
Garrett: I had no idea when the right time would be. Aar’s my first serious boyfriend, so I’d never told anyone that before. Before the trip, I recall telling my friends I was anxious I’d blurt it out on accident. Luckily, he brought it up before I could worry too much. Saved again by Aar!
On fighting with each other: Aaron: We’ve honestly never had a fight. Yes, we’ve debated over paint colors and upholstery once or twice, but it’s never been close to a fight!
Garrett: Never close at all. I never understood my friends who were in “love hard, fight hard” relationship. One of the things I cherish about Aar and I’s relationship is its consistency. After three years together we know how one another ebbs and flows. We’ve found the balance.
On their coming out experiences: Garrett: My family was very supportive and kind. No backlash here!
Aaron: I came out first to my brother when I was about 18. After a couple months of keeping the secret, I began to get a little gutsy with my escapades and spent one too many dinners away from home in a row. I grew up very close to family, so the distance caused some frustration with my mom. After some pressure, my brother caved and told her I was out with a gay friend. The next few weeks weren’t the most fun, but my immediate family eventually came around. They’re very supportive now. I look back on the experience as one of my contributions to destigmatizing homosexuality.
On life not going according to plan: Garrett: I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in the spring of 2016. Halfway through my chemotherapy, a few spots in my pelvis turned out to be colon cancer as well. In the end they were unrelated, totally random and no cause was ever found. For 11 months I received intensive chemotherapy, received over 100 shots, five spinal taps, had four near-death experiences, lost all my hair and had every type of infection you can get. I’m healthy now though!
On how cancer affected their relationship: Garrett: I like to say it put our relationship into overdrive. We had only been dating 10 months when I was diagnosed, and it made us skip right to the real stuff. I spent about 50% of that year living in the hospital, so we weren’t able to do many fun things. We did have a lot of time for just the two of us, though, so we really got to know one another on a deeper level. Looking back, I’m so grateful for this. I feel so deeply connected to Aaron having gone through this with him, and it’s helped us put the other stresses of life into perspective.
Aaron: If anything, it brought us closer. Watching someone fight for their life provides one with a unique look at a person’s true character. We faced difficult decisions together and had to quickly adapt our routines to a new way of life. Doing this makes you understand what’s truly important in life. I don’t know that I’ve met a person more courageous, loving or level headed than Garrett.
On what he learned about himself during this process: Garrett: I learned more about how I process pain. I could no longer be the guy who bottled things up and waited until the feelings passed. Instead I had to work through all of my feelings in the moment, as it wasn’t good for my recovery to be pent up. I also learned how to best communicate with Aar. We both process things, deal with stress and approach problem solving in very different ways. And an extreme medical diagnosis puts all of that on display.
On their proudest accomplishments: Garrett: By far, I am most proud of how I handled myself during those 11 months. Getting into remission was my full-time job (whether I liked it or not.) Before I was sick, I had gone seven years without needing so much as a prescription. That being said, being told out the blue that I had a life-threatening illness could have really torn me apart. While every day was a battle, I’m most proud that I came out the other end maintaining the positive outlook I had going in.
Aaron: I ran the Chicago Marathon the year Gare and I met. I had never been an athletic person before beginning training in May, and I had certainly never run more than a mile at a time. It was the first time I had been disciplined enough to finish something so huge outside of work projects in my adult life! I trained on my own with the help of a friend for the first half of the summer but completed training and the marathon on my own. The feeling as you approach the last leg of the race, body numb yet burning in pain at the same time, is so overwhelming. Tears began to stream down my face as I crossed the finish line. It was absolutely incredible!
On who they look up to the most: Aaron: My parents. My mom went back to school when my siblings and I were still in elementary school. Watching her work so hard to raise us kids, work part time and still find time to study showed me what hard work and determination looks like. My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease about 15 years ago. Despite the frustration I can sometimes see on his face, my dad has continued to be the most patient person I know. He still works full time to this day. His perseverance is something I hope to inherit.
Garrett: My family is by far my greatest inspiration. Right when I was diagnosed we had a meeting where we acknowledged how hard getting me into remission would be. We gave each other a free pass for a year: We could say and do anything without fear of hurting one another’s feelings as we processed all of the daily ups and downs that were to come. While we would have acted this way no matter what, verbally acknowledging it made it feel that much more ok. And sure enough, once I was in remission, all was forgiven and forgotten.