“There are many facts within fiction. This captivating story provides invaluable insights into the childhood of a girl who has Asperger’s syndrome. Fiction allows the author to explore different perspectives and add poignancy to the experiences of sensory sensitivity and being bullied and teased of someone who has Asperger’s syndrome. The title Delightfully Different describes Asperger’s syndrome but also the qualities of this novel.”
—Tony Attwood, world renowned psychologist and author of The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome
“Ben Long, a successful Hawaiian pediatrician, and his wife Francesca have high hopes for their first child...born with Asperger’s syndrome...Walker does a remarkable job illuminating Mia’s offbeat perspective from within; she makes it more a personality than an affliction...Walker dispels much of the mystery of Asperger’s kids while revealing the richness and promise of their lives.”
— Kirkus Review
From the very beginning, Mia lives her life on earth knowing she is different, but not understanding why. With an extensive vocabulary and insight beyond her years, Mia is a beautiful spirit who soon develops extraordinary musical talents. But subtle signs soon emerge. Mia does not like to talk on the phone, walk barefoot on the grass, and cannot go to sleep without first lining up all her stuffed animals on her bed. Just as her family finally realizes that Mia is battling sensory sensitivity issues, she is bullied in fifth grade. After Mia’s school counselor causes her to feel like the guilty one, Mia struggles to forgive those who, through their own ignorance, have hurt her.
Delightfully Different shares a poignant glimpse into the life and mind of a girl with Asperger’s Syndrome who demonstrates through her compelling experiences that every life has a purpose and that being unique is what makes each of us special.
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)|
|Age Range:||4 Years|
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By D. S. Walker
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 D. S. Walker
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFamily Differences
My name is Mia Lung. This is the story of the first eighteen years of my life. It is also the story of my mother and of my family's love.
From the time I started school, I have lived my life knowing I was different from my peers, and I often wondered why. I blamed it on my mother, because I am the product of a mixed-culture marriage. I believed the reason I was different was because my mother was Caucasian. Most of my friends were 100 percent Asian.
On my mother's side, I can trace my family back to before the Revolutionary War, which is mostly a good thing. However, my mother's family settled in the Deep South after the Revolutionary War. As my mother explains, they were therefore on the "wrong side" during the Civil War. Some of her ancestors owned slaves, so Mom is both proud and embarrassed by her heritage. This may explain why she usually tells people she is from Montana, which is where she lived when she met my dad.
My dad's family is Chinese. Ah Gung's (Chinese for "grandfather") family has lived in Hawaii for over four generations. My dad is either the fourth or the fifth generation, depending on whether you use Ah Gung's father's or mother's side. On Ah Ma's (Chinese for "grandmother") side, I am only the third generation born on American soil. Therefore, Ah Ma expected all of her grandchildren to strive not just to do their best, but also to be the best at everything they did to make our ancestors proud because they had sacrificed so much to come to America.
If you have ever read the book or seen the movie The Joy Luck Club, then you have an idea of what it was like to be Ah Ma's granddaughter. If you have not, then suffice it to say, Ah Ma made me feel like I had to be the best at everything, yet she never told me why she did this. Because of the way she talked to us, there was competition among all of her grandchildren. For instance, if I told her that I was taking piano lessons, she told me that my cousin had just received a medal for swimming. If I got an A on my report card, she told me how many A's my cousin had gotten. It didn't matter that I was older and the subjects were harder. She did this for everything.
Chinese culture is rather complicated. Honor and respect for family and family ancestors is important. Equally important is saving face. Face is how we appear to others. Outward appearances can sometimes seem more important than true character.
I don't believe it was Ah Ma's intention to make me feel less valued or less loved than my cousins. Still, this was how I felt when she always changed the subject to my cousins' accomplishments.
Because of cultural differences, my parents' marriage did not always receive full support from their families. Both families had concerns, and neither side understood that some of their values were the same.
Mom's parents told her that they would not be around if this marriage failed because they were older. Grandma also cried because Mom would be living so far away.
Grandpa even reminded Mom that it was once illegal for white people to marry Asians. Mom took offense to this, and Grandpa had to explain that he did not mean it that way. He just wanted Mom to understand that things might be hard because of this.
Mom told him that she and Dad had decided to live in Hawaii for just that reason. She assured him that lots of people in Hawaii had multicultural marriages.
Dad's family asked Mom questions about her Southern family like, "Did they own slaves?" Mom took offense to this since obviously she had never owned slaves. She grew up respecting all people. The implication that her family was racist just because they lived in the South was upsetting to her. Dad also told Mom that his mom always wanted him to marry a Chinese girl.
This alone would be hard enough for some couples to overcome, but to add to my parents' stress, God gave them me. Mom said I was a gift from God sent to teach her patience. My mom always loved me, even during times when I was difficult to understand. Because Dad's family didn't openly show affection except to babies, it was harder for him to show affection as I grew up. This caused me to doubt his love for me.
Okay, I have given you a basic overview of my family heritage. Now I must start at the very beginning of my story, so you can really understand who I am.
Chapter TwoChoosing Mom
You see, I was with Mom before I was born. I watched her from heaven for years, waiting for her to have a child so I could be born.
I first learned about Mom when she was only twelve years old. She had many losses in her life that year, including her Grandma Laura. When Great-Grandma Laura died, she and I became friends. She told me how Francesca was such a sweet girl that she hated to leave her. She said she knew that Francesca was special the day she met her as a newborn baby. The two of them had a special bond. Great-Grandma Laura learned I would get to choose my mother. She begged me to observe Francesca for a time to decide if she should be my mother.
So unbeknownst to my future mother, I studied her from heaven. Great- Grandma was right; she was special. She had flyaway, silky, copper-colored hair and beautiful green eyes that lit up when she smiled. I observed how much she loved all of her family and her pets.
I remember one day in particular. It was a cloudy, cold day in early March. Francesca couldn't have been more than fourteen because I remember her little sister Angie was nine. They were sitting close together on the brown couch in their living room. The pretty, blue ruffled curtains that matched the color of Angie's eyes were closed. The only light in the room was from the TV. A scary show about vampires was on, and Angie screamed and buried her head in Francesca's shoulder. Francesca stroked Angie's honey-colored hair and told her it would be okay. Then, even though the show wasn't over, she got up from the couch to turn off the TV and turn on the lights. She pulled back the curtain and said, "Angie, you know it's just a show. It's not even dark yet. I see Mom and Paul coming up the driveway. You know our linebacker-built brother won't let anything happen to you. You are safe."
Francesca could have made fun of Angie's fear or refused to turn the TV off until the end of the show. Instead, she showed concern for Angie. This convinced me that I did want to be her daughter.
* * *
"Mia, I am glad you chose me as your mother. Now you need to let me tell my part of the story."
* * *
Mia knows me as Mom, and she already told you my first name. My full name is Francesca Allen Lung. I will be telling you my part of this story.
As Mia said, I have always loved my family and my pets. I especially loved my horses and my dogs. Dad always said that he could not sell a horse if I was around. I would cry at the thought of losing my beloved pet. Dad used to say that I would make him go broke if he allowed me to keep every stray animal that wandered into my life. Yet my dad, a six-foot-two-inch, two-hundred- pound former marine, said I had him wrapped around my finger. He rarely refused me when I begged him to allow an animal to stay, at least until we could find it a home. I even saw him smile so big his dimples showed when we found good homes for puppies or kittens.
Still, I shed so many tears over the years over lost or dead animals. Dad was always there to pick up the pieces of my broken heart by enveloping me in his loving arms and gently patting my back. I still remember the feel of his chin resting on top of my head as he let me cry.
* * *
"This was just another example of how kindhearted you were, Mom. That is why I waited patiently for you to grow up. During this time, my love for you grew as I saw that you would one day be a loving and caring mother.
"When you were fifteen, I observed you playing tag football with all of your cousins. I noticed how protective you were of Angie and also of your younger cousins. I saw you run slowly when they were on the opposing team, allowing them to catch you. Then, I saw you cheer when they made a touchdown.
"I also observed how protective your big brother, George, was of all of you. He was the referee on the sideline, but when he thought you were in danger, he called out to you, 'Francesca watch out!' then he dashed into the game to block a hard tackle from your brother, Paul, the one who was built like a linebacker. I heard him yell at Paul, 'Are you insane? Don't you know you could have really hurt her? What were you thinking?'
"Paul sulked for a few seconds before it dawned on him that George was right, so he got up and apologized to you.
"Your big sister Brenda ran over to make sure you were all okay before she said, 'Paul, you need to be more careful. This is supposed to be tag football, not tackle. Francesca could have really gotten hurt. You're twice her size.'
"You just said, 'Okay, you've both made Paul feel bad enough, and I'm fine. Can we get back to the game now?'"
"I watched you go on your first date when you were sixteen. I knew that at that time in your life, you only wanted to date, not settle down. Still, I remember seeing tears in Grandpa's eyes when he saw you drive away."
"You were right about how I felt. I didn't know Dad had such a hard time with my dating. He hid it well. When my first boyfriend said, 'I love you,' I said good-bye. You see, I was determined to have a career."
"Mom, Great-Grandma Laura told me that she put this idea in your head."
"Yes, Mia. Grandma Laura was the one who convinced me to have a career. An aunt, whom I loved very much, convinced me to become a physical therapist, even though science wasn't my best subject. My teachers actually tried to convince me to major in journalism, but my love for my aunt won in the end. Frankly, I was a little scared that I would not be successful as a journalist. Mia, now you know where your confidence problem comes from."
* * *
While I was studying to be a physical therapist, I met the man I thought would one day be Mia's father. We dated off and on for two years. Every time I thought he had vanished from my life, he would reappear. Mia's grandmother would have said that he turned up like a bad penny. Because I saw him as my first real love, I always took him back. Now I know that this relationship was not healthy. Unfortunately, I did not see this at the time.
Finally, after two years of this, I called home in tears one night. Angie answered the phone on the third ring. Between sobs, I asked, "Angie, is Mom home?"
"No, she and Dad went to a Shriner's dance tonight," Angie said. "It's not like you to forget that. What's wrong?"
"It's so awful," I cried between sniffs and nose blowing. "Don is getting married, but he keeps calling me. Why can't he just leave me alone? I need help to get him completely out of my life."
"When Paul arrives on Friday, do you want me to ask him to get George to come down there with him to beat Don up?" Angie asked. "Just say the word, and I know our brothers will come to your rescue."
"I love the idea, but I know he isn't worth it. Besides, Brenda would beat me up if I let the boys handle my battles," I said as I wiped my tears.
Angie chuckled and said, "You're right about that. I can hear her now, 'Frankie, women are equal to men. Don't you dare let the boys fight your battles! Remember the pen is mightier than the sword, and lawyers are mightier than anyone. If you need help getting rid of the creep, I'll make some phone calls, and we'll get a bench warrant issued for harassment.'"
Brenda was a tough attorney, yet she also had a soft side where her family was concerned. She was the only one to ever call me Frankie.
After the laughter died away, in the softest, most soothing voice, my little sister gave me words of wisdom. "He is bad news. You know that. You deserve so much better. God pity his fiancée! You have to just hang up when he calls. You're coming home this weekend, right?"
As I wiped my nose, I said, "Of course, isn't this the weekend Paul is bringing Ann home?"
"Yes, it is. Brenda and Brad are having a family dinner for them on Saturday. Ann needs our support because she is a little overwhelmed at the thought of our large family gatherings since she is an only child."
"Has Paul proposed?" I asked.
Angie said, "Not officially. They're going to visit her parents the weekend after next. You know how old-fashioned Paul is. I think he plans to ask Ann's dad for her hand in marriage before he asks her."
"Why can't I find a guy like our brother?" I asked as I blew my nose again.
"Because you're too busy being hung up on heartbreakers like Don," Angie said before reminding me that our sister-in-law, Cindy, had offered to introduce me to a colleague of hers.
"Yes, but George even said he is not sure about that guy," I said as I threw away my wadded-up tissue.
"You and I both know George would never believe anyone was good enough for either of his little sisters," Angie said. "Besides, it sounds like you're looking for an excuse to avoid meeting someone new."
"You've got me on that one," I said as I looked at the clock and gasped. "I just realized it's ten o'clock already. I've got a test in the morning. I've got to get to bed, and you do too. I'll see you this weekend."
"Just promise me to avoid the jerk until then," Angie said.
"I promise," I said. "Good night."
"Good night," Angie said just before I heard the soft click of her hanging up.
With my family's love and support, I survived the break-up, but I no longer trusted my judgment.
* * *
"I was worried about you for a while, but Great-Grandma Laura told me that with the love and support of family, you would eventually realize you were lucky to be rid of Don. I certainly could feel the love of your family. It made me want to be a part of it too."
* * *
A year later, I met Tim Ridge. He was from a good family, but he had many problems. We had been dating for two years when he moved to Whitefish, Montana. We broke up after he moved, but later, he called me to say that he realized that I was the most important person in his life. He begged me to follow him to Montana. I initially refused, but I did agree to visit him.
The moment I got off the plane, I fell in love with the Rocky Mountains. The plane landed just as the sun was disappearing behind the mountains. At dusk, the mountains really looked purple as in "purple mountain majesties."
* * *
"Yeah, you loved those mountains more than you loved Tim!"
"Mia, I know that's what you think. Maybe you're right, but I did care about him. I also really loved his family, especially his parents and grandparents. They stayed in touch with me even when Tim and I broke up."
* * *
This was the longest I had been involved in a continuous relationship. I decided that this must mean we really loved each other, so after I received my master's degree in physical therapy from Western Carolina University, I moved to Montana to be with Tim. Still, we did not marry for another year. I guess both of us had doubts about our relationship. After a year, we agreed that it was time to decide whether we should make our relationship permanent.
If we had been honest, we would have admitted that while we were close friends, our love was not strong enough for marriage. Unfortunately, we were not honest, so we got married.
Initially, it seemed that our marriage would work. After all, we had started out as friends. However, Tim continued to pursue the party lifestyle while I started pursuing my career dreams. After three years of marriage, we grew apart, and I finally grew up, so I filed for divorce.
Three months after the divorce was final, Angie graduated from Colorado State University with a master's degree in occupational therapy. When the graduation was over, I rode with Angie to her graduation party at the home she and her roommates rented.
As she drove, she said, "Francesca ..." but then her voice caught. I could not tell whether it was from excitement or fear. "I've been offered a job with the Kalispell Home Health Agency." She grinned. "It's in Montana near Whitefish! If I take the job, can I live with you for a while? I will be studying for my boards the first couple of months, so I shouldn't be too much trouble."
Excerpted from Delightfully Different by D. S. Walker Copyright © 2010 by D. S. Walker. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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