A whole lot of words to say I can't find any

I have been writing this post for months.

It just won't come. Let's see....you know how sometimes, you know you just have to have something? Something, like, oh, a hoagie. The hoagie. You've had a hoagie before, and they're always good, but you know that somewhere out there is the hoagie. You look in all the right places; on South Street, near the Vet, at every place that sound Italian, like DiCostanza's and Anthony's and Luigi's, you search high and low and you just never can seem to find it. And then one day, for no particular reason, you stop on the most unstoppable little alley on Philadelphia Pike to run into the bank and totally by accident, when you least expect it, bam. There it is. It's called something obnoxiously simple like Claymont Sub Shop and it is the answer to all your prayers.

You know, at this point, that you will never, ever give up on it. No matter how far away you go, you will never replace it. It's the one.

I just compared my best friend to a hoagie. Someone shoot me.

Today, my one, my perfect thing, celebrates her birthday. I have a hard time with her birthday post every year because I am so tangled up in a web of emotions about her, and it gets hard to pull one out and talk about it. This year is the hardest by far, simply because the one single thing I want more than any single thing in this world is to sit on her porch with a beer and an ashtray and diddle away her birthday with her. And I can't. And it sucks.

I have known a lot of people in my life, and have made more friends and acquaintances than I could ever begin to count, but of all of the relationships that I have forged in my 32 years, only a very, very small few have stood the test of time. The distance. The constant motion of life.

She is one of them.

She is my forever, like it or not. She came into my life totally by accident. She stayed in my life only by proximity. She grew inside my life quietly and subtly and gracefully, as she does all things in her life. I have never, ever known a person like her before. She is beauty and strength and wisdom and compassion all wrapped up in a neat little package. She does not do lightly. She's an all or nothing kind of girl, and that may be her most admirable trait.

She is honestly the baddess bad-ass I have ever met.

I have no idea, at all, why she is still here with me, all these years later. She has seen me through the absolute lowest low point in my life, a place that cost me the majority of my most valued relationships, and she never faltered from my side. She held my hand when it was needed, she knocked me in the head when that was needed, she guided me at every turn, even when I didn't know it was happening.

You know what I bring to the table in this relationship? Nothing at all, that's what.

I did nothing to deserve her, I do nothing to deserve her. I moved 1400 miles away from her, where I cannot share the first milestones in her life since we have known each other. She just celebrated her 40th wedding anniversary, and guess who wasn't there? She will become a grandmother any minute now, and guess who will be able to call her and say congrats, but will in no way be able to snap the pictures of her and her daughter and her daughter, like a good friend should? Me, that's who.

But I can tell you this. No matter where I go, no matter how long I'm gone, no matter what I do or who I meet, nothing will ever even come close to taking her place in my heart. She is my one, and I looked for her for a very long time. She changed the direction of my life, simply by being. There is no, "I love her like a..." I just love her, totally, fully, without condition or pretense. I love her in the way I never believed people could love each other.

She makes me believe in something.

So, my dearest Gigi, if you even read this, just know that, though I am not there, that I am so there. I am there every day and I always will be. I have never had an honor more great than being your friend, and I can't imagine I ever will again. You are not just anyone, and you cannot be replaced by just anyone. You are the only you, in the world, in the lives of those who love you. You are my blessing and my reward and what makes it all make sense. I wouldn't change one stinking step of the past 32 years of my life, because each road I walked brought me straight to you.

Thank you. For you. For everything. Someday, I will find the right words to tell you what you have done for me. Until then, just Happy Birthday, from my whole heart.