Dicey understood, just then, and wished she didn't, just what the Tillermans had done to Gram by coming to live with them. Because she did love them, and that meant not only the good parts, but also the worry and fear. Until the children came along, nothing could hurt Gram. And now…but Gram must have known that, she'd had children of her own, she much have now that when she said they could live with her. Dicey wished she didn't understand. She wished she could still be like Sammy, concerned only about whether or not he'd have as much steak as he wanted, already forgetting the worry since everything was all right again.

Dicey realizes how deep an impact the Tillerman children have on Gram's life at the end of Chapter 3. First, Gram has just received her first welfare check and angrily prepared a celebratory dinner. Second, Gram sat waiting and worrying for more than an hour, as Mr. Lingerle, bringing Maybeth home, got a flat tire and could not call to tell Gram, as she has no phone. Third, upon Mr. Lingerle and Maybeth's arrival, Gram resolves to reinstall a phone, after being without one for so many years. Dicey notices the smaller ways in which the children are changing Gram's life by requiring her to be in greater contact and greater independence with the outside world, in the form of the welfare checks and the telephone. For years prior to this, Gram enjoyed her stoic, proud, and completely isolated life, but the Tillerman children are requiring her to interact with the outside world and accept charity. More importantly, the Tillerman children themselves embody a deep connection to the outside. Gram cares about the children and thus becomes four times as vulnerable to pain and loss now that they are in her life. Gram had been shut off and protected, willing to live with the results of all her decisions, and now she must learn to live with the results of everything that happens to all of them.