Palindrome. "A word, phrase, or sequence that reads the same backward and forward. From the Greek palin ‘again’ and drom ‘to run’. Running back again." Dad is a palindrome. 313 is a palindrome. TNT is a palindrome, too. Room 313 is where my Dad, Tommy Norman Titus, took his last breaths on Wednesday, April 11.
A life is a palindrome of being, bookended by not being. But a human being is not palindromic. Being human has an arrow of time: conception, birth, life, death, and along the way a hopeful accumulation of complexity, wisdom, and love. The humanity of my father cannot be swapped end to end to end up with something identical. His being was complex: pilot, aircraft mechanic, missile inspector, logger, trucker, businessman, mechanic (again), pilot (again), trucker (again), firefighter when needed, fixer of all things, builder of all things, brother, uncle, husband for 63 years and five months, father for 62 years and three months, grandfather, great-grandfather.
Family is not a palindrome. My father (being human) wanted a family more than anything. His family became a star that radiated from his core, superheated gasses hurled outward that asserted themselves in space and time. The hot arms of our love gathered in, coalesced around Dad’s center, held him gently, uproariously, solemnly, imperfectly, until he finished being human with those tiny inhalations.
Gratitude is not a palindrome. I am filled with it. Cool pitcher of water, warm cup of coffee, syrupy bourbon on ice, silver boat of Thanksgiving gravy. I am so thankful--for my father and his being, for his family into which I was born. And yes, for Dad’s gentle, peaceful death. The loss is huge. But please--do not be sorry. Reach outward with open hands. Dance. Love. Be grateful. Because our lives on the surface of this bright green sphere are not palindromes. We begin. We end. We will not run back again.