After that first lunch with my birth mother, the social worker left and Rob and Dixie and I went to the hotel to check in and relax for a while. She and I sat down on one of the beds in her room and she called her mother, who lived in New Orleans.

My birth grandmother had a fancy family name too, but everyone called her Skippy. She had apparently been waiting anxiously to talk to me, and we spoke for a few minutes. I was surprised by her NOLA accent, which left out the r’s (“You gotta come down to N’wahlins…”) but not in a genteel sense like someone from Georgia. She sounded, to my inexperienced ears, like a cross between a Bostonian and maybe someone from the Bronx.

It was immediately evident, though, that this woman was absolutely thrilled out of her mind that I had found them. Her genuine enthusiasm calmed my nerves. Before we got off the phone, we made plans to meet in person and she spontaneously began praising God. “Aw Renee, I am just so grateful that He’s brought you back to us. I just can’t wait to meet youI’ve prayed for you all yoah life, and I love ya, kiddo.”

A few weeks later, Rob and I drove down to the family vacation cabin that Woody (Grandpa) had built on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We followed Skippy’s directions to a simple, concrete-block structure with a sign over the door that said “Skipwood” and featured a dapper little man with a white beard, picking up limbs in the driveway.

“I HAVE A CUTE GRANDPA!” I hollered at Rob, who just laughed at me. As we pulled into the driveway a tall woman, who looked just like Dixie but twenty years older came out of the cabin and made a beeline for the car, beaming a huge smile right at me.

After the excited greetings, hugs and kisses, the taking of photos, and several rounds of “Just Let Me Look Atcha,” we went into the cabin, and had a happy exchange of gifts. As we got to know each other it became evident that Skippy (“You can call me Grandma if yah want to, doesn’t mattah…”) was a force of nature. She had taken up painting in her seventies, quickly gaining invitations to show her award-winning watercolors at local galleries. In her eighties, she taught herself to use a chainsaw, after hurricane Katrina blew down everything but the cinder-block walls of her house. She was unlike anyone I’d ever met before.

And she was a lot like me.

photo credit:


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