My mother recalled a dance she attended with her sister Toots at the Trianon Ballroom in Chicago in the spring of 1948. The band performing that night was a polka outfit. Like many bands that played the Trianon, they were doing a live broadcast on Chicago’s radio station WGN.

It was a well behaved, clean-cut crowd that danced at the Trianon ballrooms, a comfort to Catholics parents. The rule of the Trianon was that “good behavior is demanded and enforced.” That said, on that night long ago, my mom and Aunt Toots noticed a peculiar-looking young fellow. He didn’t seem to be causing trouble, but he really stood out. He was thin and was wearing older, oversized clothes, an old suit and a shirt and scarf that, she later learned, he got from some U.S. soldiers after the war in his homeland of Holland. His hair was longer than all the other men at the dance that night. He appeared to be almost on a mission.

During intermission, she watched this peculiar man walk right up on stage. He went to the bandleader and began conversing. She asked her sister, “So, who is that oddball, anyway?”

My mom was later informed that this Dutchman had learned that the bandleader spoke fluent German. He would have preferred to speak his native Dutch with someone in Chicago, but was realizing that no one in Chicago spoke Dutch, but that there were an awful lot of Germans living in the Windy City. So, he settled on German, and went up to the stage to speak it with the music man. The maestro was very cordial and courteous, but, at one point in the conversation, whispered for them to stop, as he pointed upwards to the radio microphone dangling overhead, from the ceiling, that was coming back down. The band was back on the air and with World War II still fresh on everyone’s mind, no one was interested in hearing two men converse in German.

Forty years later, the two men touched bases again. They began corresponding. The bandleader claimed that he remembered the oddball from that night in 1948. A few years later, the bandleader died in his sleep. The man my mother thought odd that spring evening long ago, sent his condolences, and, in response, he received this letter from the bandleader’s widow.

The 89-year-old bandleader who died in 1992 was none other than Lawrence Welk, a lifelong Catholic who went to Mass daily and stayed in the same marriage for 61 years despite the pressures of fame.

And the oddball, who was 70 in 1992, was none other than my dad, also a lifelong Catholic and dedicated husband to the women who at first thought him an oddball.

Van der Hout attends St. Pius X Church and Mount Angel Abbey Church.