That winter, I was unexpectedly called home. I received a letter from my mother informing me that my father's illness had taken a turn for the worse. There was no immediate concern, but he was on in years, so I should make my way home as soon as possible.
My father's kidneys had been troubling him for some time. As often happens past middle age, his malady had turned chronic. At the same time, both my father and the family were confident that with proper care his condition was more or less manageable. To visitors, he would even declare that he owed his survival to prudent rest and judicious recovery. Then one day, according to my mother's letter, after an outing in the garden he'd grown dizzy and fallen. Members of the household, assuming he'd suffered a mild stroke, immediately treated him accordingly. The doctor, however, on examining him later, was of a different opinion, linking the incident to the state of his kidneys. The family had not theretofore associated kidney disease with swooning.
It was only a short while till winter break, and I saw no problem in waiting for the term to end. However, from time to time over the next several days I imagined my father in bed and the worried look on my mother's face. These visions nipped at my conscience, until finally I resolved to return. To save the time and trouble of remittance, I decided to ask Sensei to advance me travel money when I called to take my leave.
Sensei, who was down with a touch of a cold, had me shown directly to his study. Warm sunlight, so rarely seen since the onset of winter, shone through the glass doors and fell across the surface of his desk. In the middle of this well-lit room, Sensei had placed a large brazier. To help him breathe easier, a metal basin had been filled with water and placed on the kettle stand. Steam wafted up from the basin.