Some of the best memories about my relationship with Michael take place in a car. When we first started dating, we would end each date with a long drive, usually parking by the ocean to talk, kiss and marvel at the beauty before us.

As the relationship continued, there were rides to NY to visit my family, a trip out to Kansas to meet his dad and countless other drives here and there. The drives were always so relaxed. We’d laugh, we’d talk, we (well, I) would sing along to every song that came on the radio. Or sometimes we’d sit in a comfortable silence, watching the scenery fly by. It was times like these I’d think how there was no better place to be than beside him in the passenger seat.

The biggest challenge a couple can experience in a car was our cross country trip. We were warned before we left, you’ll hate each other by the end. Michael and I just laughed. We knew better. The trip was wonderful. We had the best time and didn’t fight once. Not even when we had car trouble and had to drive halfway home at 60 miles an hour.

Now, five and a half years into our relationship, being in the car with Michael is still one of my favorite things. And since getting the dog we’ve started a new tradition. Most nights that we’re both home, the whole family–mom, dad and baby Kodiak–will pile in the car for an evening drive. Usually we take the same route, driving down by the ocean or through our alma mater. And we alwaysΒ stop for a little treat.

Since getting the new car, we haven’t been able to do this for a few weeks. The new car was not puppy proof. But as of last night, it is. Complete with a floor liner, seat cover, gate and doggie stairs. That dog is riding in style.

Last night the family piled in the car once again for our drive and treats. (Side note: the Snicker’s Bar I picked out? (yes, thighs, shut up. I just finished being sick and wanted one.)Β I wasn’t allowed to eat it in the new car because of potential chocolate crumbs. He’s lucky I love him…)

But the drive was still wonderful. Even without chocolate. Because I love him. And I’m lucky. Especially onΒ a day like today, six years after an awful tragedy that changed our world forever, I can look at my life and my wonderful relationship and be thankful.

I love you, baby.