HAD DINNER with my grandmother tonight. My daughter has a cold — not a terrible one, but a coughing-and-sneezing-a-lot one, which seemed like a bad thing to take to a place full of sick old people. So I went on my own, and picked up dinner for us both at Aubrey’s, so as to give her a break from institutional food.

As the sign to the right — reminding people of what day and year it is — indicates, it’s not an especially happy place by nature. But my grandmother manages to stay cheerful. She and one of her friends were laughing themselves silly making fun of the food, like freshman girls in a dorm. Her arm is healing and she can eat and write with it now, though she still can’t support her weight.

The people there are actually quite nice, and seem to really care about the people they’re taking care of. I don’t think that I could do their jobs, but I’m glad that they can.

UPDATE: Several readers sent emails like this one from Carey Cline:

I agree with you about the staff at rehab centers/nursing facilities. Early last summer my mother was in a rehab center in my home town (Dalton, GA) following knee replacement surgery. She stayed about a month and while she was not exactly thrilled about being there I couldn’t have been more pleased by the facility and staff. The were attentive and cheerful, the place was immaculate and her care was top notch. All this knowing that they are paid very little for very difficult work

Many times during the 4 weeks she was there I thought that the staff was doing God’s work, and knew that I couldn’t do it. When some nursing home horror story is publicized the people that care for the old and ill in this country are sometimes painted with a broad brush that is undeserved. As we all age, I can only hope there will be people and facilities as good as Momma’s was if I am in need of their services.

I was watching a woman there feed an old man who was unable to feed himself, and it was quite touching. These people really don’t get enough credit.