Photo of Childhood friend Richard F. Gumero from his memorial service in Desert Hot Springs, California in August, 2016. Richard suffered from a spinal cord injury when he was a young adult and bravely managed his life as a paraplegic for nearly two decades.

https://asia-spinalinjury.org/

The day seems endless in the summer desert – the heat sticks around all day even as the night comes and the moon is perfectly in place.  The nights don’t end they just sputter into warmth and dissolve into promises of yet another hot day.  I remember those days in the desert as a youth with our friend Richard awaiting the time when the sun would shine and shower down on a person. 

Downtown Palm Springs was our little place – a home away from home where we can band together – not quite brothers and sisters but tight friends nevertheless.  We had our friend Tre who drove us to and fro and had the patience to take us all over the desert.  We had our friend Shawn who listened to his hardcore techno in large headphones shaking his head with a little smirk.  We had Robbie who always had a wild story and a kooky nickname for everybody.   There was Saul, Jason, Josh, James, Damian, Rudy, Brince, Mandy, Xochitl, Esther, Beanie and Mike that lived life on their own terms energized by art, community and music who taught me to be original, loyal, and fierce in what I believe and do. And then we had Richard who greeted everyone with a smile, a little coo, as he would start grabbing at my lapels like a masseuse.

The Richard I remember was a thrill-seeker and fun – ready for any mission even if it meant walking miles with sweaty clothes and our signature plain white Nikes with a tiny swoosh.  I remember visiting him at his workplace and we would pile out of the car and he would greet us in his special way – his eyes lighting up as he adjusted his nametag that read “CAT” greeting each of us with his grabs and handshakes trying to find out what was cracking for the rest of the night. 

A lot of us used to get so serious in our insecure youth putting each other down as “toy” but Richard wasn’t like that – he was so upbeat and he didn’t put people down like that.  We would huddle together mesmerized by our street calligraphy scrawling through napkins and notepads with various styles and letter combinations.  He found a passion in life, embraced life and then our beautiful friend fell from the stars one fateful day.  I believe that his mind never betrayed his passion for life.

One day in 1995 I met Stephanie at the Downtown Palm Springs street fair as we mixed it up –  her friends and ours.  I soon learned that my friend Richard was having a baby boy and would soon have another one.  I remember one Father’s Day when Richard and I happened to stay over a mutual friend’s when his son was just a little one.  I smiled and wished him “Happy Father’s Day”.  Richard used to call his boy “little man” as he stuck out his chin so proudly strolling around the apartment.  It hit me as I wrote this that we are anything but kids anymore.  We grew up today we celebrate his memory with love and hope for his family and all of those that he has moved in his life.

As our paths moved away from each other I still feel the warmth of his memory.  I could still hear his laughter as it used to be, rising up quietly as he kidded us for something that was said or did.  Richard was a great, cool friend and even as our paths diverged and even as he has moved to the heavens we remain everlasting kin. 

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