Led to believe he didn’t have a voice for singing, 98-year-old Charles [Charlie] Delves went through much of his life refusing to belt out any tunes in public.
But a few years back – as best he recalls maybe a decade ago – he discovered his voice wouldn’t actually force cats to flee a room or cause undue harm to the masses. He tried for the first time in close to nine decades to sing, and instantly remembered how much he absolutely loved it.
Now, his voice i not much more than a whisper but anyone standing near Charlie when the Christmas carols begin will not only hear him sing but see the joy radiating from his face as he gleefully joins the caroling.
“It was that I would look forward to the most at Christmas,” he said.
Delves recalled of school pageants where he and other youngsters would try their hand at singing and acting.
The Christmas concerts at school, he said, were actually the most festive happening of the holiday season for him. They brought together all the families from nearby farms.
“It was a thing we’d look forward to and work towards for months,” he said.
“If I remember right, we had a little bit of a celebration. But, Christmas didn’t mean too much,” Charlie recounted, sitting near the Christmas tree in the activity room at Langley Lodge – where he’s been a resident for the past four years.
“My Christmastime in childbood was nothing,” he said. That made it easy for him to quickly identify one of his favourite Christmases as a child.
He was 12 years old at the time, living in a rural area north of Regina.
It was not uncommon in that era, he recounted, for strangers to stop by for a rest on their travels, often partaking of a meal and free lodging.
One year, just days before Christmas, a man passed through with a rig stacked high with Christmas trees. The traveller was taking the load through to Regina for sale.
Appreciative of the Delves’ hospitality, he gave the family a tree.
“We had no decorations or anything for the tree,” Charlie said.
But that year, it turned out there was a Christmas present. It came in the form of that tree, as well as a $1 bill from the man.
The money was hanging from the tree when Charlie went to bed on Christmas Eve, but it was gone when he awoke. While he never knew exactly what happened to the money, he’s sure it went to good use, helping his struggling family.
Charlie never had another Christmas tree until he was 24, recently married, recently discharged from the air force, and settled in Vancouver with his new bride.
“I don’t remember actually going out to get our first tree,” he said. But Charlie is confident he went deep into the woods and cut down a “doozie” of a tree and started a tradition he still cherishes today.
All these years later, he’s not cutting down his own tree anymore. But he has an artificial, table top Christmas tree that helps make his room at the Langley Lodge a little more festive.
And he enjoys hanging out in the main hall at the seniors facility, near the communal Christmas tree and the piano often used for carols.
While Charlie has outlived two wives, he still has two sons, three grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren, and is spending the holidays with some of his clan.
He’ll be celebrating Christmas with his granddaughter and her family in Surrey. He’s predicting a lot of visiting, with a guest list of about 25 expected.
There will be good food – “absolutely,” Charlie insisted.
And, there may even be some carolling, he said with a wink. That’s where he’ll reallly show off his Christmas spirit.
In fact, he’s been warming up in recent weeks, attending any and all Christmas events at the Lodge that encourage sing-a-longs, and watching his fair share of holiday-themed movies.