Now that I’m dead, I want to tell you a few things. I want to tell you a story about your Grandma – my mom.

She and Grandpa had a swimming pool in the back yard, which they really enjoyed. Grandma was always nervous, though, about the neighborhood kids playing back there when no one was watching and someone, inevitably, drowning. She really worried about it a lot.

One day your aunt was playing with some boys from the neighborhood. Grandma checked on them every few minutes, of course. That’s her nature. And, sure enough, one time she looked and they weren’t there. Immediately she ran to the back window and there, lying at the bottom of the pool, was one of the boys.

Grandma raced down the stairs and out the back door to the pool. The boy was unconscious when she dragged him out of the water. Long story short, he was OK. There was much crying and gnashing of teeth and Grandpa had to build a high, high fence around the pool. It was really a very close thing. If Grandma had been a little less vigilant, that boy would have died.

I took a lesson away from this, but it’s not the one you’d expect.

I had an epiphany the day that boy almost drowned in my mom’s pool. I realized that this accident was “the really terrible thing” that my mom, your grandma, always seemed to be waiting for. Your grandma had a very hard life as a girl, much harder than you know. And it marked her, as our childhoods always do. Grandma’s motto was always, “expect the worst.” She was willing to accept a pleasant surprise if things actually worked out somehow, but she never expected it.

She always expected the really terrible thing. She was always watching for it. Always dreading it. Always resigned to its inevitability. And sure enough, really terrible things happen all the time: people die, houses burn down, marriages end.

And I saw, that day the boy almost drowned in her pool, that the accident justified my mom’s mind-set, at least to her. If she hadn’t been worried, if she hadn’t looked out the window constantly, if she hadn’t instantly thought of swimming pool and the danger it represented, then that boy would be dead.

And that was true; but that wasn’t my epiphany. What that day showed me was that my mom was wrong, that you can’t go through life that way. That the really terrible thing will poison every minute of every day, whether it comes or not. That you can’t really be ready for it. And that, usually, it’ll be okay anyway.

I dropped acid for the first time that summer, something people usually do as a teenager or not at all. I was a grown man in my 30’s. It was something I’d always wanted to try, but I’d always resisted out of my own fear of the really terrible thing.

We took a driving vacation to the southwest the next summer, despite the fact that the car might break down. It did, but it was okay anyway.

I did a lot of things after that day that I might not have done otherwise. They all worked out okay, except the ones that didn’t. I survived them all, except the very last one.

There’s a paradox here, of course. Without Grandma’s constant vigilance against the really terrible thing, that boy – now a man with a family of his own – would be dead. Doesn’t that mean that Grandma was right? Doesn’t that mean I’m wrong?

No. It really doesn’t.