Dear Sheryl,

Today you celebrate your 21st birthday*. This afternoon your children and I will have lunch with you, eat something curried, give you a few gifts, coo at my baby, and we'll be on our way. I will not say the gazillion things I need to say to you, because that's just not how I roll. You will give me that look, that look, from across the table, and you will not see the insides of me crumble because we both know that if I have nothing else, I have a really good game-face.

That doesn't mean that I am not, indeed, crumbling.

I love the story of how I met you, but as time passes the how of it becomes increasingly irrelevant. Here we are, here we will always be. You, kiddo, are stuck with me. For better or worse. For always and ever.

(This would be a very good place to make a little note that I have now typed, deleted, re-typed, backspaced and started all over again on this several times. This one is H.A.R.D.)

There is so much I want to say to you, but I literally cannot find the words. I have been mulling over this post for days and I have tried, but I am sitting here speechless. You saved me. You save me every day. You are slowly helping save my little family. I want to find the right way, the big way, to thank you but if I say it one more time I imagine you may vomit a bit.

I don't know how to do this.

Because of you I have a sister. I have two brothers. I have cousins and an uncle. I have two nieces who will be here soon and who will never know that I am not really their auntie. Because I really am their auntie. I have a family. I have a dad and I have a mom. I am past the part where I feel like the outsider and where I wonder why I get to be there with you all because I know that I belong there. You guys are mine. My kids have real, true, good grandparents.

My kids have grandparents.

I never thought I'd be able to say that.

I am tired of fighting it and I really don't want to anymore. I love you in the way they write about in stories where that little spot in the back of your throat aches from the sheer joy of it. You are seriously the most beautiful human being I have ever had the privilege of knowing and there is not one inch of me that isn't grateful for every day I get with you. You haven't made me a better person, you haven't made me stronger or braver or prettier or funnier. You simply made me realize that I already was all of those things and that maybe I am a bit rough around the edges but that I am pretty damn ok just the way that I am. You do, however, make me happy and peaceful and graceful (except when I'm drinking; no mortal could do THAT) and calm and content. And secure. And that's the kicker. All the rest of that you can get in pill form, but the secure takes some doing.

So, my dearest friend, today on your birthday I will sit by you and I will say none of this to you, but here it is all laid out for the world to read, because somehow that's easier for me. I love you with every inch of my heart and my soul. I love every single little tiny thing about you. Thank you. Thank you for believing in me when no one else has, thank you for shaking me up and sorting me out. Thank you for what you do for my babies. Not one of us could live without you and we never, ever will.

You better live to be 187.

All my love, all my life.


*For the 40th time.