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A Piece of My Mind
August 20, 2008

About a Boy

JAMA. 2008;300(7):771-772. doi:10.1001/jama.300.7.771

I met him the night before Christmas Eve. Or rather, I met his father first, and then his mother, grandmother, and sister, and heard an overview of his medical history—an awkward way to begin a relationship. My father and his father sat on one couch, my mother and I on the other. Conversation was halting, quiet; the family had just returned from visiting some friends, and kids were being put to bed upstairs. To fill some of the silences, the father volunteered some information about his son, in particular his son's recent hospital experience. Having never felt comfortable with small talk in English and now being required to do so in Mandarin Chinese, I managed only a few questions, mostly about the father's occupation. Upon hearing that he taught medical and dental students frequently, I clung to this new-found common ground. Surely his father knowing that I was an integral participant in his profession could begin some less-strained conversation. A similar hint of relief passed over his face as we talked about medical school. Yes, he and I could relate in some way.