In first person… Grandma loved life, lived fully in the present state

Berkeley bodywork guru Marion Rosen used to send her clients over when Grandma was in town — to meet someone "who truly loved life." Born in a Polish shtetl on the most joyous day on the Jewish calendar, Simchat Torah, Grandma died at nearly 90 on another celebratory day, Lag B'Omer.

Under 5 feet, rosy-cheeked, with blue eyes, hardly a wrinkle and natural (she claimed) blue-white hair, Grandma lived fully in the present, adapting to life's vicissitudes with optimism and elbow grease.

Only when lighting the Sabbath candles would she sob for the daughter she had lost long ago. When Daddy died I was only 7. Yet she and my grandfather sacrificed their retirement to take us all in. Later, my sister married a non-Jew; she embraced him wholeheartedly, too.

Nothing threw Grandma — not when Grandpa would awaken her at midnight to served schnapps and potato kugel to his poker-playing cronies. Nor when he got Parkinson's; she became his devoted nursemaid. Not even when Mom was diagnosed with emphysema. Grandma just took care of her, too.

But after Grandpa died, she took off her apron and kicked up her heels. She joined me on my first trip to Israel, and when I moved to California she'd winter here.

Perhaps I became Orthodox because I believed it was the key to her joie de vivre, sechel (wisdom) and goodness. Now, 20 years later, I think yes, it was. But it was also Grandma.