Joey and Mary Alice's parents don't factor much in A Year Down Yonder because they're largely absent. After all, they're just trying to keep their finances afloat in Chicago, which is why Mary Alice has to go and stay with her grandmother in the first place.
But their absence doesn't mean they don't love their two children. Mary Alice's mother sends her money for her birthday, even though they don't have much. And as soon as Mr. Dowdel gets a full-time job, he and his wife immediately get a larger apartment and fix up a room for Mary Alice. They just can't wait to have their girl back home.