Sensei had raised himself and was now sitting cross-legged on the platform. As he finished speaking, he began to trace a circle on the ground with the tip of his bamboo walking stick. After closing the circle, he thrust his stick straight into the earth.
"I was in fact a wealthy man."
He seemed to be saying this more to himself than to me. The chance to respond in the moment evaded me, so I remained silent.
"You should know that I was once wealthy."
Sensei restated his thought, and this time looked my way with a smile. Even so, I still gave no reply. Or I should say, rather, that I was too unsettled to craft a response. In the meantime, Sensei shifted the conversation elsewhere.
"How is your father doing?"
Since New Year's, I'd had no further word on my father's health. The brief notes that accompanied my monthly remittance were in my father's hand as always, but he rarely made mention of his illness. His writing, though, was steady and sure. There was no sign whatsoever of trembling in the hands, as is common with his type of illness.
"I've heard nothing further, so I assume he's doing all right."
"I hope that's the case, but an illness like his is not to be taken lightly."
"Do you think his time may be near? He seems to be holding on. And he doesn't mention it in his notes."
I took Sensei's questions on my family's assets and my father's health as normal conversation -- as a natural voicing of the thoughts that came to his mind. To Sensei, however, these two topics were tightly intertwined, and the connection between them was highly significant. Not having the benefit of his experience, though, I did not know this at the time.