It’s June 18th 2020 and my father tells me his chest feels uncomfortable. I ask if he’s dyspneic. He says it isn’t that. I realize I shouldn’t use my hospital words around him because nothing about this should feel like work so instead I ask how long he can close his eyes before realizing how hollow his lungs are. There’s a pause. He sighs. The phone is pressed so tight against my ear his next breath empties me like a straw. My father tells me he feels uncomfortable every time he walks past grandpa’s belongings still around the house. He says he can’t breathe. He says bú shūfú. Very bú shūfú. As he continues talking, I realize it might be happening right now so I start loading questions—does it happen any other time? how long does it last for? are you in pain?—but wait to open fire because we’re taught to let patients reveal their diagnosis by not interrupting. We call it good history taking. When my grandfather died on June 16th 2020 I found out his birth name was Cheng Yu Liang. However when he came to the U.S. they left out the g from its spelling. Thus he became Cheng Yu Lian. Our family’s history taken upon arrival.
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