Tucked into a hillside in Hidden Valley, just north of Rathdrum, lies an unusual family ranch. This ranch has two horses, a donkey and several dogs, but that still isn’t what makes this place different.
The family that lives here will never experience the empty nest syndrome. The Tritto family, with children from 42 years old to 25 is special. They first are a very large family. At one time the family numbered 20 children. You see, all but three of the children in this family are special-needs children.
Back in 1975, Jana Tritto and her husband Mike had two children from former relationships. They met, married and wanted more kids. The sticking point? They were unable to have children naturally. Looking into adoption proved equally frustrating. Even Asian adoptions were out of the question due to the expense, as were local agencies.
Finally, in frustration, they asked how they could help with unwanted kids. The agency replied, “You can have your first child tomorrow, if you would be willing to accept special-needs children.” Sixteen adoptions later, they had the family they wanted.
Then, to the horror of Jana, her husband of 20 years and love of her life suddenly died, leaving her with the entire burden.
Advance five years and Tritto found herself in a social scenario that she was unfamiliar with. Other than church and the grocery store, she hadn’t established a social life, and didn’t see that happening, ever.
Enter Jim Brand. He grabbed her, danced her around the room with Tritto sputtering in protest. A coffee date, followed by dinner, found this unsuspecting man introduced to a family of “forever children,” Jim seemed unaffected by the relationship-killer Jana envisioned, From the original 20, some died of their afflictions, some were out on their own.
Brand and Tritto were married the day after the twin towers in New York City were bombed. The remaining eight children will be theirs forever. Unable to leave home to direct their own lives, they will forever be children.
Asked about the burden of aging with this responsibility, Jana replied, “While people looking at this situation from the outside would think this is a burden, it’s not. I have a house full of kids that Jim and I give love to and they return unconditional love back. It’s wonderful.”
Brand is disabled, and Tritto works as a physician’s assistant at Rockwood clinic in Spokane. The adult children receive Social Security, which enables the family to hire caregivers who tend to much of the day-to-day problems.
Winter nights with the wind moaning around the house, the coyotes and wolves, howling in harmony, fit right inas the family that will never part snuggles down.