The last incident first. When my half-brother Bobby Wulf died, mom made funeral arrangements with the assistance of the Pfannebeker Funeral Home in Denison, Iowa. One of the decisions my mom made, which was unwavering, was that Susan Rosener would sing. Sue has a great voice, and mom wanted this occasion to be special by hearing one of the greatest local vocalists.
Father Rehmaeker was the parish priest at St. Ann’s Church in Vail, Iowa. When it was time for a hymn, Sue began singing, and so did Father Rehmaeker. The only difference was that Father Rehmaeker was wearing a mic and his voice was drowning out Sue’s. I am in the front pew with mom and she’s grabbing a hold of me, shaking me, and saying: “Make him stop, Marty! He’s singing! I don’t want him singing! Please, Marty, make him stop!” I suppose I could have made the six o’clock news, but I had no idea what to do to make him stop.
I realized that he heard mom’s pleas when he began the eulogy. He explained that the Pope, or the bishop, or some other head of church, had written that everyone should sing and praise God jointly; that singing should not be a presentation. It went in one ear of mom’s head and out the other. Can you blame her? She did not like Father Rehmaeker.
I tried to explain to her earlier in life that he wasn’t to be trusted. When I was in high school at Kuemper in Carroll (1964-1968), Father Rehmaeker was the principal. It was the policy of the school that the crime of skipping school required the student’s parents to come to the school and have a powwow with the principal, the student and the parents to allow the student to be re-admitted. I was caught skipping school, so mom came with me for the inquisition. My step-father was not considered to be a parent.
Mom and I are sitting on folding chairs in Room 207 – Rehmaeker’s office. Father picks up a manilla folder off his desk and opens it. He reaches in and pulls out a slip of paper. He hands it to mom and says: “Mrs. Wulf, do you recognize this handwriting?” Mom said, “yes, that is my handwriting.” “Well, then,” Father Rehmaeker pumped his chest and pulled out the remaining stack of papers and asked, “whose handwriting is this?” “Oh,” mom said, “that’s Carol’s handwriting.” Carol, my innocent sister, was a year ahead of me at Kuemper. Thanks, Mom! Carol didn’t write all those excuses. It was easier to forge her handwriting than that of my mom. Carol never got in trouble for it. I received another 3-day suspension. I never did understand why they suspend a student for the student’s self-suspension.
I was reminded of one of those skipping moments when Chuck North sent me a friend request on Facebook.
One gray, cold winter day, several of us boys in Vail decided to skip school. We all met at Chuck’s house. Of course, it wasn’t his house; it belonged to his parents, Earl and Mary North. We were having a blast, doing what is questionable, but I don’t think we were drinking, smoking or doing drugs. That’s a plus, I suppose.
Close to midday, someone yelled, “Earl just pulled up outside.” There must have been at least eight of us. I remember Jim Devold, Chuck North, Ron McCoid, Laird Vergith, Jim Malloy, and possibly Russ McCoid and another Malloy, along with me all being there. We all ran upstairs and hid in the master bedroom closet. Bodies on bodies.
We heard Earl come in and prepare a lunch. We tried not to move, but what are you going to do when you have that many male adolescents packed into a tiny space. Then, the inevitable occurred. Someone farted. It wasn’t the silent kind, nor was it the fragrance of roses. It was suffocating to say the least. I just knew we would be caught by Earl. A few began whispering. They might just as well have talked aloud. We were not quiet by any means. The decibel level had to have floated down to the main floor, but Earl finished up his meal and headed out.
I wonder what he thought. I wonder whose excuse I used for that day. I’ll bet it was in that batch of excuses with my mom’s signature on it, with Carol’s handwriting, possibly forged by me.
Rest in peace, Father Rehmaeker. After dealing with me and mom, you deserve it.