DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: New parents at ages 63 and 77

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the vows Jean Stratton took in Zen Buddhism.

JEAN STRATTON SMILES the sun-bright smile of a woman whose long-deferred dream has come true.

Jean, 63, and her husband, George, 77, are brand-new parents this year. A little girl named Brooklyn came into their lives four winters ago: At 15 months old, she was a quiet kid who had seen far too much.

This family’s story lifts my spirits. It’s about following your heart around many bends in the road.

George and Jean became foster parents after Brooklyn’s birth mother was unable to care for her. The Strattons fell in love with this girl, a tiny refugee from a drug-poisoned household.

Jean, retired from a career working with youngsters — including many years with the Girl Scout Council — held onto her hope for motherhood. She’d been 45, “an old bride,” she quipped, when she married George. She suffered miscarriages. So Jean and George attended foster parent training together.

When Brooklyn arrived, she hit it off with her foster folks. She would go to George and pat him, saying, “Dada.” She also got to know the dogs, Pixel and Beau.

In January 2014, a phone call came from the birth mother: She wanted her back.

“We were devastated,” Jean said.

Months passed. One awful day at the grocery store, she saw Brooklyn.

“Mama! Mama. I’m here,” she called out.

“I didn’t know what to do,” said Jean.

In the ensuing months, she deepened her study of Zen Buddhism, ultimately taking vows to live a consciously Buddhist-principled life. Also a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Jean is a woman who meditates, and who loves nature and music.

Then another call in mid-2014. Again, Brooklyn’s birth mother couldn’t care for her.

Working with the Department of Social and Health Services, the Strattons brought her home again, and over many months, they watched her grow into a thoughtful, social kid. Brooklyn went on to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church’s preschool, and Klahhane Gymnastics, and Holy Trinity’s vacation Bible school.

Her birth mother continued a downward spiral. Her parental rights were terminated in August 2016, Jean said.

In April of this year, the Strattons celebrated their finalized adoption of Brooklyn, now 5, with a party at their home.

This fall, Jean and George’s daughter will start kindergarten with a name she announced shortly before the adoption celebration.

“She told me: ‘I’ve decided I’m going to be Brooklyn Grace Stratton,’ ” Jean recalled. The Grace part is new, a name Brooklyn chose for herself.

Our girl, Jean says with a huge smile, is tall, beautiful, smart — and resilient.

“In a calm environment, children can heal,” Mom believes.

When Brooklyn turns 18, Jean will be 76 — and she has no qualms about that. Friends have called her crazy. And now as then, she knows being Brooklyn’s mom is the right thing.

There are times when her daughter still needs to sit in her lap and be rocked. Mom understands. There are also times when Jean needs quiet. She finds it in the early mornings, working in her garden, meditating.

“It’s been a long, bumpy road. It’s been worth it,” Jean acknowledges. Love and hope are found in the rough spots.

For information about foster parenthood and adoption in Washington state, visit Fostering Together.org or email foster parent liaison Linda Cortani at [email protected] A training will be offered in Port Angeles this September.

_________

Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Angeles.

Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be Aug. 16.

Reach her at [email protected]

More in Opinion

A GROWING CONCERN: Friendly tools save your knees, clothing

TODAY IS THE FIRST full day of fall and autumn is the… Continue reading

POINT OF VIEW: Protect Clallam County’s access to health care

By Eric Lewis Chief Executive Officer Olympic Medical Center CLALLAM COUNTY’S HEALTH… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The lost and the not yet lost

THERE ARE ONLY two types of mushroom pickers. Those that have gotten… Continue reading

WEST END NEIGHBOR: Twilight festival brings faithful to Forks

TRINITY HANNING, 16, told me her stagecraft teacher said “she is possessed… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Blue-tarp camping misery

THERE’S NOTHING QUITE like the sound of rain on the roof, unless… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: You can’t go crabbing in a tidal wave

THANK YOU FOR reading this. Sometimes I think if you didn’t read… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Carol, Jim, Jimmy and Lillian

IT’S A NEW, old story. About 20 years ago, Carol Swarbrick and… Continue reading

WEST END NEIGHBOR: Still a bumpy path to jobs’ completion in Forks

WHEN SOMEBODY SAYS “the best laid plans” and leaves the words to… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The coming subduction event

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news. The state Department of… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Up in smoke

THOSE WHO IGNORE history are doomed to watch television. This enduring truth… Continue reading

WEST END NEIGHBOR: It’s not just the park — it’s the people

LOOKING DOWN AT the ladder of the avalanche chute, it appeared the… Continue reading