Mary was every kid's grandmother.

She had a card game, story and lesson for everyone she touched.

She'd spend the early evening hours playing crazy eights and talking with the very young; after they'd go to bed, the adults would crowd around the dining room table with sherry and beer to play bridge or poker well into the early morning hours.

She was the old-world, Atlantic City type. And during the marathon card games she'd tell stories about hanging out at the beach, talking to the teen-age "boys" in her fashionable new striped bathing suit, showing her knees for the first time.

At 70, when I met her, she was impeccably dressed. Beauty-shop blue-gray hair; always a colorful, pretty dress bedecked with huge rocks of, to our constant amazement, real jewels. And this was how she was dressed the time she taught me to eat hard-shell crabs.

Sensing that I was somewhat squeamish, she had picked my first crab clean long before I got to the Ocean City table piled high with those huge red things that resembled, to the uninitiated, sunburned spiders. But it tasted wonderful, as she knew it would. And it was only after I was addicted that she proceeded to make me clean my own crabs.

"Just pull out the legs, pull back the apron, remove the shell and scoop out the mustard and devils white gills with your finger," she demonstrated without batting an eye, obviously experienced in teaching "children" to eat something new. "Then snap the body in half and use your fingers to pick out the meat."

She was quite matter-of-fact about the process. If she had acted any other way or had it been anyone else insisting I do my own picking, I probably would have decided I didn't like hard-shell crabs (it being so gross and all). Anyway, I trusted her, and by the time I realized I was pulling the legs off my eighth crab I was glad that I did.