Dear Daddy,

(I wrote to you in July, 1945) I thought we’d be a happy family when you returned home from the war, but I hardly know you now. Where is my daddy who left the family to serve our country? I look at you and think, what happened to you? Where is my daddy who told knock-knock jokes and made me laugh? Where is my daddy who put me on top of the refrigerator until I shrieked to be taken down and you let me jump into your arms? Where is my daddy who brought a little puppy home?

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He ran with me around the dining room table until Mommy said, “Take that animal back.” You laughed and we were happy. I may not be the same child as before. Are you disappointed with me? I don’t want to be disappointed with you. I wish we could talk, but Mommy always interferes and tells me to leave you alone.

She says I am a nuisance and a pest. Do you feel that way, too? It was fun going to a family resort on Lake Michigan for a few days until the food didn’t agree with you and you wanted to return home. You didn’t like being in the sun and sleeping on someone else’s bed. It was too noisy for you.

I didn’t tell you that I almost drowned there. Mommy would have blamed me for following my sister and some kids down underneath the pier. I wasn’t fast enough when they climbed back up the ladder. A huge wave splashed over me and I got tangled in seaweed. I swallowed a lot of water when the wave knocked me down. I tried hard to get free and finally managed to climb up onto the pier when the wave went back out. I was out of breath and scared to tell you.

Would you be sorry if I had drowned? Would you miss me? Both you and Mommy were crabby when we came back home. You sent my sister and me to visit Aunt Annie Rubin at her home in the country for a few days. Cousin Bobbie and my sister ran away from me to pick berries. I got a nosebleed.

Aunt Annie was kind and prepared an ice bag to place under my neck. But it happened again the next day and she sent me home. Mommy was upset and you said nothing. You are very quiet and some days you don’t talk at all. Other times when your brothers come over, you joke with them like you used to do. I am happy to see you laugh with them, but I wish you laughed with us.

Sometimes you sit and stare into space or read the Yearbook from the Encyclopedia Britannica to figure out where you were a Prisoner of War in Nazi Germany. I hear you cry and scream through my bedroom wall at night. I understand about nightmares and the bogeyman. I know you visit Army doctors and dentists during the day and wish you felt better at night.

I’ll stay away from you and spend more time at Aunt Miriam’s house. Mimi and Bepa are living there until Mommy goes with you to Miami Beach for your rehabilitation and reassignment. I can play with the kids in the neighborhood who haven’t gone away for the summer. I don’t want to bother you.

Mimi says your need for quiet has nothing to do with me. You had a terrible experience as a Jewish American man captured by the Nazis during the war in Europe. We have no idea how much you suffered in a Prisoner of War camp and a slave labor camp for Jews.

God answered my prayers to bring you home alive. Now I pray for Him to grant three more wishes. One is to restore you to your old self. Another is for us to be a happy family again. My last wish is for the United States Army to reassign you to finish your service in the USA and not Japan.

Love,
Maxine
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