Then She Ran by Robin Stratton by Robin Stratton - Read Online

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Summary

Despite repeated warnings to doctors at the mental health care facility where their special-needs daughter was being kept, Bob and Patty Begin received the late-night phone call they dreaded most: Cecilia had escaped and no one knew where she was. Arrogance and negligence in the medical community and Massachusetts' lack of a systematic process for locating runaways meant that Bob and Patty would have to organize and head the desperate search by themselves.
Published: Whiskey Creek Press on
ISBN: 9781611602180
List price: $3.99
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Then She Ran - Robin Stratton

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Afterword

Introduction

My wife Patty and I sat in the chilly, too-bright doctor’s office and tried to digest the news: Procedure didn’t work... wouldn’t advise trying again... chances of success are limited... I held her hand, but I doubt she noticed; she was just staring at the floor. I’m sure she thought her inability to conceive was her fault.

So where do we go from here? I asked.

The doctor shut his folder, finished with us. There’s always adoption.

We hadn’t planned to adopt. But then again, we hadn’t planned on not being able to have kids of our own. Who does? It’s one of those things you spend your entire life not thinking about until it happens to you. Until it’s in your lap, and it’s like someone made this tragic decision about your life and you didn’t have a say in it.

I reacted by burying myself in work and coaching a youth football team evenings and weekends. Being surrounded by kids, even if they weren’t mine, had a comforting effect on me. Their respectful but affectionate shouts of Hey, Coach! Look! Watch me! told me I would have been a good father.

Patty’s sadness went deeper, but didn’t linger like mine. She turned out to be more resilient, and only a few months went by before she said, I believe there’s a child out there for us, waiting for us. I believe that’s the reason we couldn’t have our own.

Maybe, I said. I wasn’t in that place yet. I’d accepted the circumstances, but wasn’t ready to look on the bright side of it.

Bob, let’s adopt.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to love someone else’s kid, I told her honestly.

You love the kids you coach.

That’s different.

What if I could guarantee that you would love an adopted child just as much as if it had come from us?

You can’t.

She smiled, eyes excited. What if I told you I already know a little girl who needs to be adopted?

What?

It’s so sad, Bob! Her mother has some heavy duty emotional issues and can’t take care of her. She’s in her fourth foster home.

Wait, I said, just wait. Who is she? How do you know her?

My father knows her case worker. Imagine? It’s like fate! She needs a mother and a father, and we need a child.

I scowled, unwilling to hope, getting grouchy just thinking about it. Like suddenly the world is going to stand on its ear to cooperate? I’d gotten used to the idea that we would never have a child. Adopting meant taking a risk: an emotional investment. I wasn’t ready. I wouldn’t do it, no way. How old is she? I heard myself ask.

Six. She’s an absolute doll! You’re going to love her, you’ll see! Should I make an appointment with the agency?

No! I sighed. Okay.

Five days later, Patty’s father called and said, Okay, she’s here! Come over and meet her!

Chapter 1: Magic Wand

The instant I saw Cecilia[1] everything inside me flipped over and my knees went wobbly. A beautiful precious angel with long brown hair and crystal-blue eyes, she smiled shyly when Patty crouched down to greet her.

Nice to see you again, Cecilia.

Hi.

Do you remember me?

Uh huh. Cecilia’s eyes lingered on Patty’s face, and then traveled up to mine. Suddenly struck dumb, I couldn’t move or breathe.

Want to say hello, Bob? Patty sounded amused.

I nodded. Crouched, too. Face to face with Cecilia, I said, Hello, in as normal a voice as I could muster. When she smiled, pink lips parted to reveal little white teeth.

From behind I heard Patty’s father clear his throat. I need to talk to Patty about some things, he said. We’ll be out back. Okay?

Okay. I was barely aware that they left; I couldn’t take my eyes off Cecilia.

Please play a video game with me? she asked in the sweetest voice I had ever heard.

Okay. Which one?

Mario Brothers.

Okay.

She sat down and patted the rug next to her. You here.

Enchanted, I sat. She explained the rules to me patiently, a little girl playing teacher. For a long time we took turns and passed the controller back and forth. She was clever and nimble, and we laughed a lot.

I had no idea how much time passed before Patty and her father returned.

Having fun? Patty asked.

Yes! said Cecilia, smiling at me.

Yes, I said, smiling back.

Patty waited until Cecilia was occupied with her turn before saying quietly, We have to leave. Her foster parents are going to be here soon.

No! said Cecilia. She dropped the game and climbed into my lap. I don’t want you to go!

I held her. No words could describe the powerful emotions that surged through me. I’ll see you again, real soon, I said.

She clung. No! I don’t want you to go! I don’t want you to go!

She’s attached to me already! I thought, delighted. I have to, but I’ll be back. I promise. Okay?

No!

I stood, still holding her, and kissed her. Next time we’ll stay longer.

Can I get a hug too? Patty asked. I handed Cecilia to her, and, in tears, Cecilia held tight.

She loves us! was all I could think. Patty’s father took Cecilia’s hand and tried to console her. We finally got out the door after a few more hugs and promises to be back. As we drove away, I saw Cecilia on the porch, waving forlornly. I would have given up anything to spend one more minute with her.

I couldn’t tell if you liked her or not, Patty teased.

I started to babble: She’s amazing! She’s so smart! And so beautiful, did you see how beautiful she is?

I saw.

We had such a blast; she’s so funny! And so polite! Did you see how polite she was?

Yes.

And she didn’t want us to leave. Did you notice? She liked us right away! She wanted us to stay! We have to have her! How do we do it? Where do we start?

I researched her D.S.S. status. She’s available to foster, and considered a high risk for adoption. We’ll have to take M.A.P.P. classes.

What are those?

An eight-week course to prepare foster parents for kids with troubled backgrounds like Cecilia. The main thing you need to know is that her birth mom might not want to put her up for adoption. Even though Cecilia has been in and out of the foster care system since infancy, the department of social services wants to give her mother every chance to turn her life around.

So that was the catch: fall in love with this exquisite little girl and then maybe not get to adopt her! Was I up for it, could I put my heart out there and risk having it stomped on again? On the other hand, to not even try was out of the question. Okay, I said, when do classes start?

* * * *

Cecilia’s transition to her new home and family would be a gradual ten-month period as per the D.S.S. Protocol. We were granted visitations with her, for an afternoon at first, then longer as our intentions became solidified. When it came time to leave, she never wanted to go back to the foster home. She’d cry, beg, or hide in a closet or behind the couch. It was clear that she had some emotional issues, but we believed it was nothing more than a fear of being abandoned.

One day I went to pick her up at the foster home for our weekend visit. Her foster mother explained that Cecilia had gone with the case worker to have a supervised visit with her birth mom and had not returned yet. We sat and chatted about Cecilia until we were interrupted by a knock at the door. It was the case worker. Cecilia is in the car and she won’t come out. She wants to talk to you.

I ran out, and found her sitting there, so small, so unhappy. Honey, what’s wrong?

She wiped her eyes and sniffled hard. Nu-nuthing.

Can I come in and sit with you?

Yeah.

I got in and pulled her onto my lap. What’s the matter?

I didn’t come in the house ‘cause I didn’t want you to see I’m crying.

It’s okay to cry when you’re sad.

She wrapped her arms around my neck and let loose with the tears. I held her for a few minutes, then said, We’re gonna have a great weekend; we have some fun stuff planned. Sound good?

Still tearful, but bravely trying to recover, she nodded.

Good girl. Wanna go inside and say goodbye?

Carry me?

If I can...you’re pretty big, ya know!

She giggled. We got out with her in my arms, and I carried her inside.

How we doing? the case worker asked, her eyes on Cecilia.

We’re fine, I said. Planting a loud kiss on the side of Cecilia’s head, I set her down. Go get your backpack, okay?

Okay!

She ran into her bedroom and I asked quickly and quietly, What happened?

Her mother was a no show. For the third time. Nice, huh?

Real nice.

We stopped talking as Cecilia returned. I’m bringing my stuffed dog, she announced.

Do we need to stop on the way home and get dog food?

No, silly! she said and laughed.

We’ll just make him a sandwich then. Or spaghetti, does he eat spaghetti?

Cookies!

To see her smile again was like the sun coming out. We said goodbye to the foster mother and the case worker and got into my car. After making sure Cecilia was strapped in, I said in a bright voice, Here we go!

But she was sad again. Why doesn’t my mom come to the visits?

My heart ached for her. I don’t know, I said, taking her hand. I can’t imagine missing a visit with you.

* * * *

On April 9, 1997, eight-year-old Cecilia stood next to the judge, a few seconds away from becoming our legal daughter. She held the gavel in her little hand, the magic wand that would change all our lives.

The judge said, Go ahead, Cecilia! and when she pounded the gavel, the sharp crack pierced the expectant silence.

It is the pleasure of this court to announce that Cecilia is adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Begin!

Our small group burst into applause. I reached for her and scooped her up. You did great, Cecilia!

Our little girl! said Patty.

And just like that, we were a family.

* * * *

The following weekend we held a blessing for the adoption so everyone could meet Cecilia. Sitting at the table wearing her favorite top, a purple Pocahontas shirt from the Disney store, she looked in wonder at the big crowd. Dad, are all these people relatives?

Mostly. Some of our friends are here, too. They’re like family.

Here, Cecilia, Patty said, handing her a card. This is from Dad and me.

What is it?

Have to open it and see!

She tore open the envelope and opened the card without reading the front. Something dropped out and fell into her lap. What’s this?

"A plane ticket to Disney World! Cathy, Rick, and little Ricky are coming and so are Aunty Lynda and