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. TNT, my father’s initials, is a palindrome. So are the numbers 313, the room where Dad, Tom Norman Titus, took his last breaths.
A human being human is a palindrome of words. But being human is not a palindrome. A life has an arrow of time: conception, birth, living, death, and along the way a hopeful accumulation of complexity, wisdom, and love. My father being human 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 radiating from his core, super-heated 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, but an endless sea. I am filled with it: cool pitcher of water, sip of warm coffee, syrupy bourbon on ice, silver boat of Thanksgiving gravy. I am so thankful--for Dad and his being, for being born into his family. And yes, for his gentle, peaceful death.
Being human is not a palindrome. So dance with an open heart. Reel across the bright surface of this blue earth. Love. Be grateful. We begin. We end. We will not run back again.