while I get the car? It's in the other car park down there."
The person who asked me this was a complete stranger. I had just parked my tricycle outside the psychiatric wards at the hospital and was about to go in to visit my friend. The couple had come out the door at the same time.
The looked pale and shocked and the woman was weeping. She had one foot in a "moon boot".
"I'll be all right on my own!" she protested but then started weeping even harder.
I just nodded at the man and he walked off. I knew it was going to take him a few minutes to get the car and bring it around to the pick up point.
"I'm sorry. You don't have to stay. I'll be all right."
"You will be all right but it might take a bit of time. I'd like to stay. It might make him feel a bit better. Is that all right?"
My answer produced a shaky smile.
There was silence and then she said, "It's our daughter. She's really done it this time. I have to stop crying. We have to tell the children they'll be staying with us now."
"How old are the children?"
"Eight and five."
And then the words came tumbling out. In the space of those few minutes I was told a life history of "getting in with the wrong crowd", of drug addiction and much more. The children have been backwards and forwards. They are difficult to handle. It was a tale of utter misery, of the failure of social services to intervene when they should have - all compressed into a few words. Her parents had come from interstate - and this time they will be taking the children back with them for good. They will now be responsible for bringing up the children of their own child.
A car appeared. She turned to me and suddenly, unexpectedly, hugged me.
They were gone and I was left hearing my own question over and over again.
"How old are the children."
"Eight and five."
I hope life is kinder to them now.