It was something of a weekly ritual. Every Friday night I would wait for that familiar figure to appear in the doorway. Sometimes they were late. Did something happen? It's not that I feared they'd forget to come for me, but I didn't want to be like those kids who get left behind. Being able to get out of a rehabilitation facility if only for a weekend, when I was seven, eight, nine or ten felt exciting and important in ways I couldn't really explain. It didn't even matter if I disliked the facility I was in or not so much. When I parents came to claim me I felt like I wasn't like the other kids who practically live there, who don't see the outside world, whose parents rarely visit. Most of my memories of this nervous waiting come from my years spent at the Peto Institute in Budapest, but I've been in rehabilitation programs in Poland as well, where this waiting game was more of a daily thing. At first you waited for the exercises to be over. Is it mom or dad coming for me this week? What did they bring me? A new book? Some candy? Time passes, but that's OK. They're only 15 minutes late. It's normal. 20. 30. You see the other kids picked up, one by one. Sometimes you're the only one still waiting. And you don't want to be the one who gets stuck for the weekend. If the waiting takes too long you really start to worry. My parents would fly in from Poland every weekend during the periods when I stayed at the Institute overnight. Is something wrong? Did something happen to the plane? Here they are. The weekend can begin. I have to say I really needed to get away for those two days to get my energy back and I really felt bad for the kids no one ever came for. Getting me back to the Institute was always a challenge, but to me it was worth it. At first we used public transportation. My mom walked mu up the steps of the bus, put me in a sit and then went back for my stroller. Sometimes the driver would close the door on her, so later on she opted for taking a taxi. The problem with that was the drivers rarely cared to give her change and she didn't speak Hungarian, so she later made sure she wouldn't give them any high bills and she had a proper amount with the tip on her. I taught her some basic words in Hungarian, so she'd know to tell the driver to drive up to the building. Yes, the Monday mornings were wild. When I was a weekly boarder at the rehabilitation ward at the Child Health Center in Warsaw my dad would just drop me off there again on Sunday nights. Less stress, less hassle. But to me those extra few hours between Sunday night and Monday morning made a world of difference. You may not think much of it, but even sleeping with my family near by made me feel like I was not just a patient at an institution, but someone who has a family to go back to, someone who has a life. And not a person who's left behind, stuck and forgotten at a rehabilitation facility regardless of how nice staff at some of these places may have been. I've seen those other kids, reaching out for human contact with conductors becoming substitute mothers in a way. It might sound awful, but I was glad this wasn't me. That as late as the may had been, my parents eventually came.
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