A Birth Veil
Mom told me she was born with a veil–sometimes called a veil of tears. Her mother told her it was a sign of beauty. It’s been said people like Freud, Charles the Great and Napoleon were born with veils and that it is a mark of uniquely extreme perception. I don’t know if there is any scientific data to support that but I do know Mom had a deep understanding of the greater things in life.
The farmhouse she grew up in was large and drafty. It was kept warm by a wood burning furnace in the center of the basement with a big floor grill above it.
Grandma would heat water on the wood stove to fill the big tub used for bathing. The water was kept warm because the tub sat right on the floor grill. The youngest took the first bath and then it progressed by age. The oldest and dirtiest went last–which was her dad.
Pneumonia was common and just as Mom’s life was beginning, she laid in bed struggling to breathe. She could hear the somber voices of her parents talking to the doctor outside her room. Then, in a feverish haze, she heard the doctor say, “Dolores isn’t going to make it through the night.”
Too weak to lift her head from the pillow or utter a sound, she prayed a short, sweet prayer, “Dear Lord, if I get better, I will live for you.” She did live through the night and her strength slowly returned that year.
She continued practicing the piano and began to play a little at church. When she was 10, during the service one Sunday, Reverend Bernwirth asked if there was anyone who wanted to come forward to the altar to be baptized–they dunked. Sitting beside her Uncle Willard, without any nudging from him, she rose and walked steadily down the aisle. The pastor read, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27). This was the first scripture she memorized.
Her father, Edward Rahn, was a tall, striking man and a strong farmer. Her mother, Alma Force, was different from the other women he met–she had become a teacher and worked at the school adjacent to his family’s farm. Ed had spotted her coming and going and soon made his presence known. It didn’t take long for him to capture her heart and they were married. Love was expressed differently between them–it was never spoken of.
There was a blizzard one Christmas Eve when Mom and her two brothers Ronald and Joel, drove with their parents to the Christmas Pageant at church. They made it into the building but by the time the pageant ended, the wind howled and the snow had become a white sheet. The parking lot was a mess of deep mud and icy slush. As they exited the doors, her dad scooped her up in his arms, wrapped her inside his coat and tucked her close against the warmth of his chest as he carried her to the car.
After a lifetime of struggling with it–like many do whose parents don’t know how to love well–Mom realized, that though he didn’t say the words, this event was a confirmation that he really did love her.
A Wedding Veil
“It was in June 1950 that your Mom and I got married in her hometown church,” Dad recalled. “We had the reception in the basement and then celebrated some more at the house.
I never heard your mom’s Mom and Dad argue because her dad would just be quiet and do what he wanted. Like the day we were getting married. Your grandma made it very clear she didn’t want alcohol at the party. Dad never said a word about it but on the day of our wedding he spent the morning cleaning out the garage. I didn’t think anything more about it until the delivery truck came from town and unloaded the alcoholic beverages.
Quite a few of my folks’ friends came for the wedding. Their group of friends was called the TPs. They would never tell us what it stood for. My sister Judy and I later figured out it meant Terrible Parents. Anyhow, they came to the wedding and stayed at various friends’ houses. Although Dolores’ home now had electricity, running water and a bathroom, one of the TP’s insisted on using the outhouse that still stood on the property so that he could say later he came to the wedding and had to use an outhouse. That was old Marty Rindfleich–he’d always find something to needle you about.
We had five each, bridesmaids and groomsmen. The bridesmaids all made their own dresses. Dolores bought the material.
So towards the end of the church basement reception, Dolores’ older brother Ronnie came down and snatched Dolores and carried her to a pickup truck waiting outside. Ronnie had placed the backseat of a car on the back of the cab of the truck and seated Dolores on it. When I came out and saw her there I had no choice but to join her and they drove us around town.
The wedding gifts were now all at the farmhouse. After the reception was over, we went through the gifts, marking the envelopes with the amount of money and taking out the cash so we’d have enough money to go on our honeymoon. We had to borrow my Dad’s car because we didn’t buy a car until later. Our first car was a 1939 Chevy which we would drive from Champagne to Milwaukee or Lanark.
We had arranged to rent a motel in Freeport for our wedding night. The day after, we went up to northern Wisconsin to a cottage I had rented on White Sand Lake .
We felt quite at home there because the cottages also had an outhouse. One of the nights, we’d gotten into bed and heard this fluttering sound. We turned on the lights and found a bat flying back and forth in our cottage. Dolores held the door open while I got a broom and maneuvered him outside. One day, we took a boat with an outboard motor and went fishing. While we were out, a storm came up and the lake got pretty rough. I went to tend to the motor–I tied the motor to the boat and Dolores said,”
“What are you doing?”
“We might get swamped and I don’t want to lose the motor.” I told her.
“What about me? I can’t swim.”
“She wasn’t too happy with that moment. I just told her I’d always take care of her.
The cottage we rented was next to a cottage owned by my friend Bob Frey. Bob’s mother and father came to visit us one morning. Dolores had just finished making a pineapple upside-down cake. So she made a fried egg breakfast for all of us and we had the cake for dessert.
On our way home, the oncoming car somehow lost control and swerved right in front of us. I pulled off onto the side of the road to try and give him room. He swerved in front of us; tossing gravel against our car then crossed back to his side of the road and flipped over. Other drivers stopped and we managed to get the guy out of the car which was on its side. Dolores and I took him to the hospital. The gravel he had knocked up broke a headlight on my Dad’s car. When we got home, Dad wasn’t at all happy about that.”