Standing here staring at my overstuffed suitcase, sitting on my king-sized bed, memories start to flood through my brain like a storybook.
For Twelve years, I shared this bed with my husband. It seems a bit of overkill now as it's just me. Our divorce will be finalised soon, yet I am not all that sad.
It has been a long, hard twelve years, dealing with my husband’s mental illness and all the paranoia and issues that go along with it.
Oh, and let us not forget our gorgeous eleven-year-old daughter who has her own issues caused by being on the Autism Spectrum. I love my girl dearly, but life has been hard.
That is why this trip is so important to me. I had never left my country of birth, Australia. Before getting married, I had big dreams of travelling the world.
Alas, I found out several years into our marriage, that my now ex-husband had no desire to travel, plus, in those early years, I would never have dreamed of taking a long trip with an autistic child.
But first, let me introduce myself. My name is Raylee Bloom. I am forty-three years old. Look wise, I’m short at only five feet three inches and have a lot of extra kilos (though I’ve managed to shed some thirty kilograms since also shedding my husband).
I have dulled brown hair with loads of wisdom streaks aka grey hair, I have tired-looking, light grey eyes, a button nose, full lips and a round face. I would not say I am ugly, but I would say I am plain.
I live a boring life in a boring town in the same state where I was born. I have never done anything extraordinary in my life, but I’m hoping to change that.
Jada comes running into my room, interrupting my inner monologue “ Mum bag packed?” she asks in her broken speech.
“Nearly bub, mum just has to put her toothbrush in, and I’m done, are you all done with your bag?” I asked her in return.
“Yes” she stated simply with a massive smile on her face, her excitement clearly evident. I can see I’m gonna have trouble getting her to bed. I just thank God for Melatonin, so she’ll get to sleep OK.
When I decided to use our house savings to take a month-long trip, I knew travelling for twenty-seven hours had the potential to be a problem for my girl, so I booked sleeper seats so that way she could be comfortable should she choose to sleep. Many think it is a waste to spend your house savings, but you only live once!
I sat on my massive suitcase and managed to get it closed. Jada giggles at my antics, before running off into the lounge to play on her iPad. I wheeled the bag into the entrance, thankful that this massive heavy suitcase had wheels on it.
The rest of the night went as it usually does. Cooking meals, bathing, reading and finally, bed for Jada. I had just slumped down in my recliner to watch some Netflix when my phone started ringing.
Glancing at the caller ID, I grunted, the ex was calling. I figured I had better answer since I will not have to put up with him for a month, having decided just to get a cheap prepaid sim over in the US rather than mess around with that international roam nonsense.
“Yeah, what?” I grunted out.
“Why are you talking to me like that, what did I do?” he questions me, clearly upset at my tone. Seriously, what did he do?
Where do I start? How about the fact that he screwed his ex-girlfriend when we were taking some time apart to think about what we wanted from our relationship.
Anyway, I knew the conversation would go on much longer if I did not just take a breath and be more civil.
“Nothing, sorry. So why are you calling?” I asked a little less hostile.
“I wanted to talk to Jada before you guys leave tomorrow, is she busy?” It's then I noticed a slight slur in his words. He is drunk…again.
“Nate, it's nine o'clock, you know Jada goes to bed at eight o'clock…”
“Oh, s**t sorry, didn’t realise the time, can you wake her up?” I so want to verbally rip him to shreds right now, but I took a few deep breaths before replying.
“How about we just call you in the morning? It’s going to be a big flight and I’d really like her to get some sleep now.” I rolled my eyes hard, so glad he could not see me.
He sighs before quietly saying “sure fine, whatever. I guess I will talk to you tomorrow then. OK, well, Love yo…” He stops himself. “Sorry… habit. Bye.”
He hangs up before I could say anything. He tends to slip up like that when he has been drinking. I guess after twelve years it would be a habit hard for some to break. Not me, my heart is stone cold. I doubt I will ever love anyone other than family ever again.
I shut the TV down, no longer in the mood to watch anything. I grab my phone, shut off all the lights and head to bed to read on my phone app. I am physically exhausted, but my brain just will not shut down tonight.
After the fifth time re-reading the same paragraph, I decided to call it quits and try to get some sleep. I revert to an old trick I have of creating a story in my mind to distract my brain and help me fall asleep, within minutes I am out…Works every time.
I am woken early the next morning, like half past five early, by an overly excited Jada, jumping up and down on the bed next to me shouting “get up mum” repeatedly.
I groaned as I turned over. I grabbed her hand and pulled her down to the bed, wrapping her in a hug. “Too early bub, mum's tired”. She just giggles at me before extracting herself from my grip and racing off of the bed.
“I want toast, please” she yelled from the door.
“Of course, you do” I mumbled. This kid eats the same thing every morning; four pieces of toast cooled with butter and Vegemite. I guess a lot of kids on the spectrum like things the same.
I slowly drag myself out of bed groaning like an old woman as my bones crack and pop back into place. I really feel so old these days, my poor body is paying for the years of neglect and carrying all the extra weight. But I am incredibly determined now to shed it so I can have a better life for both myself and my daughter. We both deserve this!
After fixing Jada’s breakfast and scoffing down some fruit and yoghurt myself, I jump in the shower and chuck some comfortable clothes on ready for our long flight.
I make sure to grab my portable phone charger and purse to throw in my carry-on luggage. Once Jada has finished her breakfast and gotten dressed, I tell her we need to call her dad. She is not keen because she just wants to get going, but I manage to get her to stand still for a few minutes to appease him.
About an hour later, we were on the Airport Shuttle bus headed for Melbourne Airport. My stomach is tense, and my shoulders are rigid. I always stress about new situations for Jada. I never know if it is going to lead to a full-blown meltdown or if she is going to thrive.
After several boring hours of driving and waiting, we are finally on the plane. Jada is excitedly humming on the seat nearest the window, and I am half watching her and half listening to those around me, a habit I picked up after hearing one too many nasty comments about my child. I used to get upset by the comments, but nowadays I just let fly and tell them what I really think. Thankfully, all is quiet, and I begin to relax.
The flight overall was uneventful with lots of reading, playing games and eating, plus we both managed to get a few hours of shuteye, but twenty-seven hours is a long time to mostly be sitting down.
I was so thankful when the pilot announced we were getting ready to land. Jada and I watched the changing landscape out the window and we finally descended and touched down in Arizona.
Thankfully, disembarking from the plane and getting through customs was quick and easy and we were met in the pickup area by a smiling Maz, a woman I have interacted with a lot online but never actually met in the flesh before, and her two kids, Johnny (who also is on the spectrum) and Kaydee, both of whom are around Jada’s age.
Maz greets me with a hug before we exchange pleasantries. I just love her accent. Maz wrangles her kids and leads us to her vehicle.
We decide to just head straight out to her ranch rather than stopping anywhere along the way, so we all climb in and start the four-hour journey. By this time, both Jada and I are exhausted and getting a little irritable. I give Jada her iPad and off we go.
Authors note: Just a heads up, I am Australian, so our spelling may be different from yours.
Please also note that all wording around Autism is just how I refer to things regarding my child on the spectrum and is not meant to be insensitive to anyone else on the spectrum.