When I was in high school the internet was just starting to become mainstream. I remember I actually had a large yellow “phone book” of internet addresses that cataloged and described every major website. Just imagine a printed version of Google that you had to buy at the store. Also, I had a program that would bring up a screensaver with trivia and pictures that would flash across the screen while you waited the minute and a half for a page to load. And I had a chat program that allowed me to talk to people without leaving my room. Without even having to worry about opening my mouth and making a sound. This meant I finally had a way of talking to girls.

There was this one girl in particular that I had wanted to talk to for a very long time, but I never could get the nerve to do it in real life. I was 17 and still completely incapacitated by even the thought of conversation. But on a computer I could thrive. I could speak volumes. I could edit my words till I was confident enough to push -Enter- and send them off. And I some how was able to convince this girl to talk with me online.

We would talk with each other daily, late into the evenings. And I finally articulated who I was to someone and had them articulate who they were back to me, and together we learned what it meant to communicate. Like a baby that had been waiting 17 years for his voice to be born after him, I was finally able to scream. Scream to the heavens that I had been freed from my silence and could finally live among normal people.

And I fell in love. This beautiful, gentle, innocent and compassionate girl not only listened to me, but she took my words, wrapped them in her arms and held them to her chest in such a way that I felt like I could live forever in that moment. Even when she was just a flashing pixel on the screen.

On the night before her birthday I stayed up until midnight chatting with her, stringing the conversation along later and later, just waiting for the passage of midnight. And at 12:00 sharp, I had the honor of being the very first person to wish her a happy birthday. And I had never meant it more.

That was 17 years ago. Half of my life. And I can proudly say that through all of our travels and all of our life changes, I have never stopped looking forward to this day with the same amount of joy and excitement. The night where I can stay up till midnight to tell the woman I love that she is the most important and special person in my life.

I’m so happy that life has brought us to the point where the only thing between us at that wonderful moment of midnight is three snoring little kids to reach over top of, to take your hand and to wish you a happy birthday.

Happy birthday Andrea.