"D on’t you think we should get in touch with Daddy?”

I am stunned mid-stair, and my expression through the banister bars scares Rafi on the landing.

“Oh, Naomi, I didn’t mean to shock you, it’s just, I miss him sometimes,” he says, a touch wistful, “and you know, now that we have his address, now that it’s our choice to get in touch…”

I sit down on the stairs and shake my head.

“You don’t understand,” I say quietly.

“So tell me.”

I sigh. “The letters will. You have to read them, all of them, before we do anything.”

He gives me this half-exasperated look that says c’mon, let me see the whole journal already.

“I can’t give it to you all at once, I need to do it at my own pace.”

I know how ridiculous it sounds even as I say it, but as a concession I add, “I’ll give you another glimpse, soon.”

Dear Daddy,

Like an avalanche gathering snow and becoming ever more forceful as it hurtles down, things at home go downhill fast.

Three weeks after Mom came home and heard Mikey and the guys for herself, three weeks after you exchanged shocked expressions in a clanging room, you leave our house.

Mom picks me up from school one day, which would be nice, except her mouth is hard-set and grim.

It’s Thursday and she buys a kugel at the deli on the way home. That is weird and unnecessary, I think, because you make a mean overnight kugel, the smell seeping into my dreams every Thursday night.

When Rafi comes home, we have some of the kugel (too oily, yours beats it hollow), and Mom drops the bombshell at our feet: “Daddy’s not coming home anymore.”

There had been hushed conversations — scarier because I couldn’t make them out for all my eavesdropping efforts — bags under Mom’s eyes, and defeat in yours these last weeks. And strain, the air between you so strained, it was inevitable it would crack like this, jagged, uneven edges poking out and hurting.

I’d seen all that but still. I want to kick and screech and demand what on earth she means.

Mom looks down but she is not fast enough, I catch a glimpse of deep sadness in her gray eyes.

So the scream dies in my throat, and the demands fall in on themselves, and inside, where all that pressure is bottled up, I feel I am imploding.

You are still in town and we meet you every week at Chai-Thai, a kosher Asian-style place. We sit at the far corner, under an orange display of Chinese and Japanese umbrellas. They are suspended midair and the breeze from the door makes them twirl marvelously. A display like that would be useful outdoors where it could be a rain shelter of sorts, but you explain that far away in Asia, those umbrellas are used as protection from the sun.

The world is a weird place.

We eat spicy noodles and wontons in bright pink sauce, and you do most of the talking.

You tell us about your music. And I want to hush you at first, I want to tell you, This is why you’re not home anymore. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 677)