My father was a man who believed history repeated itself. Not in the large ways, of nations and of wars, but in the smaller ways of families. He was a religious man, and he believed that the patterns of the universe were fixed in place, infinite but static, revealed to the devout through the pure concentration of prayer. What is destiny, and what is in the power of a single individual? Ask my father and he would have answered that everything is destiny. That is the answer of our religion, the answer he was obliged to give. That was the answer he applied to us, his children.

He was small, but powerful, with a smooth, bald head that made him seem both wise and ageless. In those days before our country’s independence he had great influence, and he carried himself with a dignity that was almost regal. I understand now that the legacies he gave us were not more than the quick glint of memory, the sudden surfacing of a half-remembered dream. But at the time I believed, we all did, that they came to him through some kind of divine inspiration, tumbling from his lips without warning, like coins spilling suddenly from a shaft of sunlight.