A walk on a snowy winter night with my ‘miracle’ daughter
COLUMN BY HERB PEPPARD – DISPATCHES
Herb Peppard with his daughter Rosalee.
Ever reminisce about a time when something magical happened in your life? Well, I have and this particular one reminded me once again what a fortunate person I am.
This blessing happened on Dec. 24, 1978 and it involves my beautiful daughter, Rosalee.
However I’m getting ahead of myself and I must backtrack a little. At 93, it’s about time I reviewed my life. Yes, I’ve had a few setbacks, but who hasn’t? One such setback was the Second World War, a time when the whole world was on fire. Like many my age, I faced a terrifying decision. Would I or would I not offer up my life for king and country? After much thought and inner arguments, I volunteered to go into the Canadian Army.
Thankfully, after spending five years of my young life in war-torn Europe I was very happy to return home safely in 1945.
It was in 1951 when I had the most horrible setback of my entire life. My beautiful wife, Greta, who was 26 at the time, was struck with the dreaded disease of polio. She was confined to an iron lung for a long period of time, and she was near death many times.
Finally Greta returned home, but she was paralyzed from the waist up. She appeared to be in a helpless condition. However , she was a determined and family oriented mother who was determined to keep our little family together. She was certain she had my love and our children’s love. With courage and love she again became the pillar of strength for our little family.
During the next few years it appeared Greta was not strong enough to bare having another child. At least everyone felt she was not strong enough. Everyone, that is except Greta.
It was then the miracle happened. Greta’s dream came true and she became the proud mother of a beautiful little baby girl. Everyone was so elated, and so proud of my courageous wife.
What followed was Greta and I searching through the ‘name books’ to find a name for our new baby. At last we came upon a name we both agreed on – ‘Rosalie.’ However, that did not sit well with Greta. She could not have her daughter’s name ending in a ‘lie’ so her little daughter’s name became one that pleased us all – ‘Rosalee.’
Rosalee was a determined girl. She loved music and she loved singing. When very young she took singing lessons in Truro. Her singing teacher was Helen Embree, the same lovely lady who had taught Greta years before.
Next Rosalee attended Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. where she got her Bachelor of Music Degree. She also travelled to Banff, Alta., to study the Professional Musical Theater Program. Her next adventure was Toronto where she furthered her studies and to help finance her studies she took a job in a high-class tobacco shop.
While Rosalee was working and studying in 1978 she realized that this might be the first time in her life she would not be home for Christmas. This definitely could not happen so she packed her duds and made a hasty flight to Nova Scotia.
Rosalee arrived early because her mother’s birthday was on Dec. 12 and she could not think of a better day to arrive home. And so she landed at the Halifax airport on a cold wintry night, rented a car and drove down to Mill Village, Queens Co. where we were enduring a rough snowstorm. The drive would usually take about two hours but with the terrible weather it took much longer.
She arrived home about midnight. Greta and I were sleeping soundly and suddenly we were awakened by a beautiful singing voice. It was a female voice and when we opened the door there stood Rosalee. What a wonderful surprise. She was singing in her lovely voice a song very appropriate for this evening. It was an unbelievable rendition of ‘Happy Birthday To You!’ It couldn’t have been sung better. Greta was overwhelmed with joy. She could not have received a more rewarding birthday present.
We spent the next two weeks preparing for Christmas. We got a nice fir tree and then we decorated the house. Next was finding appropriate presents. It was a joyous time with our youngest daughter adding her energy and joy to this special time of the year.
Soon Christmas Eve arrived and Rosalee and I decided to go for a walk while Greta prepared the turkey for our big meal the next day. It was about 11 p.m. when we left the house. We decided to ‘walk around’ the square, which consisted of our house on one corner, a church on another corner and snug village cottages in between. The houses all had warm, welcoming lights in their windows.
However, Rosalee and I had another mission. We wanted to be alone and enjoy the experience of father and daughter, sharing their love on this magical night. And a magical night it was. It was cool, but not cold. Then all of a sudden it started to snow. Not the blustering, driving snow of a rough, winter storm. The flakes were large and fluffy. They descended slowly to the ground, obviously in no hurry to reach their destination and neither were we. In fact, we would be very content if this heavenly evening never ended.
Then, to top off this ideal evening, a magical thing happened. We both, without speaking, reached out and clasped each other’s hand. Then, as we strolled along, with the snow fluttering down, we started to sing. And what did we sing? Why it was Christmas Eve so the songs we sang were all about Christmas. We sang: Silent Night, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, The Drummer Boy, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, a very old one we both love—Good King Wenceslas – and many more.
This time to me was one of the most heavenly experiences I’ve ever had. Walking hand-in-hand with my lovely daughter in a gentle snowstorm and singing songs we both love.
Life doesn’t get any better than this.
Herb Peppard is a longtime Truro resident. His column appears regularly in the Truro Daily News. MouMMMfLmmMdou