If there’s ever a good excuse to eat cake, it’s always a birthday.
And on the second floor of the Mills Memorial Hospital, there was a lot of it as Doris Mills turned 101 years old on June 26.
Cards, gifts and treats take over the table as hospital staff and friends come to celebrate the significant milestone with Doris sitting in her wheelchair with a grin.
“I feel younger… I just don’t worry about it,” says Doris. “If I feel good, that’s the main thing.”
For Doris, being over a century doesn’t phase her and she’s more than generous with her party guests to share her gifted chocolates. She reads cards aloud with her son, Gary Mills, beside her.
“I was quite impressed [with the party], I thought there’d be a couple of people here,” says Gary. “When you’re 101, you don’t have many friends left [so this is great].”
Although her memory is beginning to fade and it’s becoming difficult to retain new information, Gary says his mother is always in a good mood and having fun which has kept them both going. He laughs that sometimes she speaks her mind a little too loudly, but at her age — that’s the least of her worries.
In the past year, she’s broken her hip four times and each time, he thought she wouldn’t recover. Gary says that Doris often forgets her body is too weak to walk and is just too determined to get around, regardless of the multiple injuries.
“With a lot of people who break their hips, they’re usually gone in a couple of months,” he says. “It’s hard to get her to walk with a cane or a walker because she chooses to be firm, she denies her handicaps.”
Up until her recent falls, she was living at home with her son. Gary says it’s her genetics that has kept her strong when aging, as Doris’ mother also had a 101st birthday celebration and lived to 102 years old.
Born in 1918, Doris has been a witness to the changing of time and has lived through important milestones in history. But when asked about significant memories of her life, she just smiles.
“She went through the Second World War and that would probably be the big thing for her when she was a child,” Gary says. “But those people in those days, they didn’t talk about it.”
The family had lived in Montreal for most of Gary’s childhood, but left for Toronto when Anglo-Franco tensions were high and eventually moved to Victoria.
Throughout those moves though, they always had family around to come together for occasions. Gary worries that would make Doris the saddest if she realized how far apart everyone is now, as it’s just the two of them in Terrace.
“We would always have Easter, Christmas, big family get-togethers which were great. I remember them as a kid being wonderful times,” Gary says. “I think that would be her biggest regret, that our family is spread out all over North America, so it’s hard to have those families get-togethers again.”
Despite the distance, Doris is still in a lot of people’s thoughts and the stack of cards show it.
“Everyone’s just happy to have her around, she’s happy, she’s laughing and joking,” Gary says.