On Caregiving

My grandmother attracts strays. She’s not particularly motherly, but motherless things seem inexplicably drawn to her. Possibly because we all know that she’ll care for us, although somewhat begrudgingly. As you might expect, none of her charges are show quality. Some are no quality at all, but everyone gets treated for their ailments and fed on a schedule, and that’s a lot more than most of us had anywhere else in our lives.

I count myself among her strays, as I was welcomed in the same “well, I’m not going to let you die” sort of way that all of us are welcomed. It’s not that the woman is cold. She is. But she is not merely cold. So many warm and welcoming people turn out to be so false. They are warm and welcoming because they think that they have to be so you will like them. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that my grandmother’s coldness is a sort of self defense. She is so destined to care that there has to be some filter or all the lost children of the western world would be sleeping on her floor.

People simply come to her, sometimes without even knowing it. Strangers talk to her in the street, empty stores and restaurants fill up after she’s been in them. She’s the most unwilling saint. The patron saint of patronage.