an acquaintance told me. She was pushing a small boy along the street. He was sitting on the seat of one of those odd little wheeled toys that let you push the pedals and, presumably, pretend you are riding a bike.
I was startled because I had always assumed that he was their child. I first saw him being pushed around the streets when he was very young. He looks very much like his father in colouring and facial structure - so much so that people have often remarked on it. Seeing my obvious confusion the woman told me, "He's my husband's sister's child. Remember? She died in September 2013. His father can't care for him - since the accident. We want him - want him to be able to stay in his family."
I remember hearing something about it. I did not inquire about the details. All I know is that there was an appalling accident. The child's mother died of her injuries some weeks later. The child's father is unable to care for himself and certainly could not care for the child. So relatives have stepped in to take on the responsibilities.
It sounded as if it should have been simple but apparently it has not been at all simple. His father was willing, indeed more than willing. He was anxious it should happen. He will have to live in care for the rest of his life. They were willing and anxious for it to happen. The authorities apparently had other ideas. They were "too old" to adopt. (They have other children in their late teens.) They had to be considered "suitable" and so it went on. That they had been caring for the child since the day of the accident apparently had nothing to do with the decision making. It has taken the past fifteen months - from the time it became clear it was going to be necessary - to ensure that this child's future was going to be secure.
I know that there are good reasons, very good reasons, to ensure that a child who is gong to be adopted is going to a good home but why did it take this long? His new mother told me that the constant uncertainty has been hard on all of them. They feel much more relaxed now but there were several times when the authorities questioned whether people now in their late forties could care for such a small child. The fact that they were doing it was apparently irrelevant. If they had not been willing and his father had died then he could have ended up in a series of foster homes. This way he has a home - and he can stay in his family.
Our brief conversation ended when he looked up and demanded, "Mummy - push!"