While the men donned tool belts and slowly coated themselves in flecks of sawdust, The Mayor, The Rooster and I helped Elke and her kids decorate the sheets that will serve as wall coverings in the temporary structure.
In the spirit of celebrating the harvest, we drew pictures of fruits and vegetables and wrote their names on the sheets with fabric paint and markers.
No one seemed to mind that while employing all my protestant determination, I copied the Hebrew words for “fig,” “olives,” “dates" and “grapes” upside down and backwards.
“That’s okay,” Michael said laughing at me, “when God looks down on the sukkah he’ll be able to read it.”
While we were busy working, a phone call from Denver told us that Michael’s Grandmother, Bubie Sarah, passed away.
She was 98 years old.
She had Alzheimer’s as well as severe dementia.
About two weeks ago she simply stopped eating and drinking.
She just refused.
I wondered if she had any clarity about refusing or if she shut down unknowingly.
The end of a long life.
She was born in 1911 in a small shtetl in Poland.
Her father came to America when she was five and worked for seven years saving money to bring the rest of the family.
Michael told us about her life over lunch and I tried to imagine being separated from my family for seven years.
During World War I, German Soldiers were billeted in Sarah’s village.
One of them was friendly towards her and when he was leaving to return home he gave her a bar of soap.
It was the first she’d ever held.
She put the soap in a box of sawdust under her bed.
Periodically she would take it out to gently hold and admire it, each time returning the prize to the safety of the hidden box.
Sarah got her first pair of shoes when she was twelve.
They were bought for her in Warsaw when the family was on the way to America.
Two years after arriving in the New World, Sarah’s mother died.
She spent most of her teen years and early adulthood taking care of her father.
Michael said she was the quiet type.
"She’d fade quietly into the woodwork, so much so that people would forget she was there."
“She learned a lot about people and things that way,” Michael told us.
“She developed a great insight.”
“She had huge hands and she cooked strange foods that no one else cooked,” Michael said.
“I was afraid of her when I was a boy, but I discovered that her foreignness was a gift for me.”
We added another bit of writing to the sheet that will become the sukkah wall.
"Celebrating Sukkot with love in our hearts for Bubie Sarah, always."