Walking into an empty house, the stress packed away for a moment, Caleb and Colby took a deep breath. Then they embraced as their new home surrounded them. In Caleb's arms back in 2019, Colby remembers that feeling to this day.
'"Oh my god, we did this,'" he reminisced. "'We have a brand new house, and it's amazing.'"
Flash-forward two years to New Year's Eve, when Caleb and Colby Forrest- Dietzel brave the December chill for their wedding photos, dressed in dark navy suits and smiles to match. It's been just a month since tying the knot, but the pair have a lot to say about the past five years.
"My first impression," Caleb said, "was someone searching. It was an immediate connection, though. We immediately hit it off really well."
The two have a unique dynamic, a subtle trade off of sorts. When Colby talked, Caleb listened intently and smiled softly with his eyes. When Caleb talked, Colby was enthusiastic, jumping in at times with a joke and a hearty laugh which only made Caleb's eye smiles deepen.
Not that he isn't young, Caleb said, but Colby keeps him young. Colby is the spontaneous one.
"He reminds me that there's more to life than just being calculated," Caleb said. "And I don't ever think of those things."
Over the course of a year, as the pandemic shuttered businesses and halted much of everyone's social lives, the two found themselves spending even more time together at home. The pandemic, Colby said, changed the way we get to know people.
"If anything, it made us grow more as a couple and understand each other more by spending time away from everybody else," he said.
Some days, they sit on their back porch, a glass of wine in hand or the grill fired up. Caleb, as per Colby's praise, is "really good at karaoke." The basement, where the karaoke area is set up, is the place to be on other days.
When it comes to their relationship, they've figured out quality time really just means spending it together. Since connecting back in 2015, they've listened and learned.
Caleb's listening ear is one thing Colby appreciates most.
"He always has a listening ear to hear my side of the story — even though I don't always want to hear his side of the story," he said.
"That's true, actually," Caleb said, and they both laughed.
But don't get it wrong; while Colby is well aware Caleb is the first to apologize and seek a resolution, they always put their differences aside and come back to the table. That's what means the most, Caleb said.
Colby himself is service oriented. Back in 2017, when Caleb's mother passed away after a bout with cancer, Colby was there for him every step of the way, Caleb remembers — more than he could have asked for.
"He immediately knew what I needed in those moments. That will last with me for a while," he said. "Everything that he did, I didn't even have to ask."
It reflects in the way they support one another's personal and career goals, too. Both are involved with local volunteer organizations, Colby with The Sneaker Project and Caleb with Dreams to Reality, and both have their respective day jobs.
Caleb's work is in health care behind the scenes, a field he calls "ever evolving" and time consuming. He often finds himself clocking more hours than usual. Even up to his rehearsal dinner, he had his phone in hand, emailing and messaging contacts.
"Colby has been very patient," Caleb said. "It's not easy to live through that stuff, just listening to everyone talk on phone calls or conference calls and things like that. It's not easy to do that."
"I think I could run his business from listening to all of the phone calls," Colby said with a laugh.
With Colby's job at the bank, and before the pandemic stripped away a variety of charity events, Caleb often found himself dressed and ready to attend events as Colby's plus one — even though he himself is a homebody.
"I told Colby, 'I will go do it. I will make sure that I'm there.' I will make it to the ones that mean and matter the most and support him because that's what you do when you care for someone," Caleb said. "You are there, even if you don't want to and would rather be holed up in your pajamas. You go do that."
By working with one another, they've found their happy medium — in balancing work and expectations for one another. And being in a committed relationship has taught Caleb it's OK to let his guard down.
"I've always been the helper in relationships, you know, always the fixer upper," he said. "What it taught me is that I probably have things that can be fixed too, and to let someone do that. Because we're not perfect; no one's perfect in a relationship, no matter what."
For Colby, it's taught him it's OK to be your own shape and size. Don't compare yourself and your happiness as a couple to others. Remember, he said, that sometimes the relationships that seem happy on the outside, aren't happy and successful on the inside.
"We don't need to be a cookie cutter relationship," he said. "We are our own shape."
And though it wasn't love at first site (Caleb isn't big on those movie-esque story lines, he said), it was Colby's carefree spirit and child-like wonder that drew him in immediately. Over time, he's found more to love. When you hit 99 years old, you can still find something. Love, he said, includes the ups and downs.
Cookie cutter or not, their proposal story is one Caleb and Colby will never forget — partially because of how it went.
It was fall 2019, the two of them walking at the water's edge in Destin, Florida. They'd just had dinner and the sun was beginning to sink toward the horizon.
Colby remembered being nervous — very nervous.
As Caleb tells the story with that characteristic eye smile, Colby watched.
"We walked probably a football field's length down the beach," Caleb said. "And I was like, 'What are we doing?' And he's like 'We need to go back. We just have to go back.' And I was like, 'OK?' And then he just veers off by himself, and I'm still walking in the water, just like, walking by myself."
Finally, Colby walked back toward Caleb, turning him around.
"He said, 'I have something I want to say,'" Caleb said. "But then he wouldn't say it, and I was like, 'Just say it already!'"
Then Colby piped up: "And then I get down on one knee on a really steep part of the beach and fell."
"He fell on both knees," Caleb added.
"And then I put the ring on the wrong finger!" Colby laughed. "It was a mess. I'm glad it was dark."
The moments leading up to the proposal are rather interesting for Colby to remember. Though he was the one who proposed, he said he can't pinpoint when he knew they would be together. Instead, it was his friends who nudged him forward. Caleb was a keeper, they assured him.
"My friends told me that I had been the happiest that I had ever been, like I had a glow in my eye," Colby said. "And it was the realization that, 'I am truly happy.' That is when I realized I had something good."
Coming up on their first Valentine's Day as a married couple, they're committed to treating the day no different than the rest — because "I don't love you more on this day as the day before or after — I love you the same," Colby said to Caleb.
And when someone asks them how married life is?
Caleb's response is simple: "Here's to 99 more years."