1. My mom divorced my dad when I was a baby
    To save money she moved into a building she managed where she befriended a tenant named Richard
  2. Richard took care of us
    He was gay but closeted, at the time, and wanted to live the life of a nuclear family man. He was 23. He moved in with my mom and helped raise me.
  3. Eventually we moved out and he moved on
    I was sad about that, I never understood what was happening, why he didn't live with us anymore. But we kept in touch and he was around until my teens.
  4. He was the funniest person.
    I remember developing a sense of humor basically as a means of keeping his attention. I loved him desperately and still do.
  5. He made beautiful things
    He was an artist and interior designer. He created beauty wherever he went. He made oceanic paintings of incredible haunting depth.
  6. Two years ago I ran into him on a plane
    We caught up and made plans to meet again, but they didn't pan out.
  7. Late last year my mom got a text message
    From Richard. He'd been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, had maybe months to live. My mom and I got on a plane. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived. What state he would be in. Where he even lived.
  8. We went to see him
    At his parents house where we used to spend holidays when I was really little. He had transformed it from a snugly little cottage decorated with Swedish accents to an elegant bungalow filled with silky grey tones and antiques from across the world
  9. We found him walking, talking and full of gratitude.
    He talked about when I was little. Stories I never heard about from when I was a toddler. I began to realize how deeply he loved me. I had always thought that he had abandoned us for a better, more glamorous life.
  10. He carried a picture of me in his wallet always.
    That's something I only found out today, when my mom called to tell me that he died.
  11. Your family can be anyone.
    And when I was a little two foot tall terror, Richard gave me an enchanted world to inhabit. He made me who I am. And I got to tell him that.
  12. Tell the people you love what they mean to you.
    And don't ever, ever minimize the role of non-nuclear parenting. I am the luckiest person in the universe to have known Richard, and all the other amazing, perfect, LGBTQ people that were a part of my life growing up.