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"It's Mrs. Mills To You"




Carol Roach



Sylvia and Reggie Mills (real names concealed) was an older couple who lived in the next building over from me. I met the couple was when I was an enumerating for the Quebec provincial elections in the 1980’s. I did not have a good first impression of them. When Sylvia opened the door the “smell of old people,” tobacco and urine hit me immediately. I asked the necessary questions and left as fast as I could.


I didn’t much think about them after that. Then the summer came and I used to see Sylvia sitting outside with another lady who lived in her building. I never really saw the husband though. The ladies were really quiet. Eventually we nodded to each other as I passed by and then in time we started to talk. I am not quite sure how I became friends with these two ladies, though I think it was Rona, the other neighbour who spoke to me first. I ended up spending most of my time with the Mills and Rona in Sylvia’s stinky house.


Reggie and Sylvia grew on me, they were a nice couple and Rona was a laugh a minute. Reggie was extremely quiet; he hardly spoke. If we were in the living room he sat in the kitchen alone. Rona and I were lucky if he even greeted us coming in. We were not offended. We knew he was a very shy man; except for when he was drinking that is, for that is when he would come out and talk to us.


He let down his guard when he was drinking and actually laughed a little.

Rona and Sylvia loved to laugh and it was good for me because they made me laugh too. One time, I dropped by and Rona had a serious look on her face. She said to me, “Carol I came in tonight and Reggie got aggressive.”


“No way,” I said, “not Reggie! What did he do?”


Sylvia, and I broke out in laughter after she gave her answer, “He said hello!”


That was Reggie; he never talked unless he was drinking. But we loved him.

Sylvie was a comedian in her own right. She was the opposite of Reggie, she never stopped talking. She had so many stories to tell. She would always talk about her past, raising her 9 kids. She tried to make even the sad stories sound funny. Even when she was not trying to be comical it came out that way.


She told me about the time she went to see her doctor. Now you have to understand this is a woman who was brought up in another generation and everyone referred to her as Mrs. Mills. So off she goes for her doctor’s appointment.


The doctor greets her: “Well Sylvia how are you feeling today.” She answers:


“Not bad Richard and you?”


To which the indignant doctor responds: “You can not call me Richard, my name is Doctor Sterns to you.”


Sylvia retorted: “And you cannot call me Sylvia, my name is Mrs. Mills to you.”


The lady had spunk.


Now Sylvia was not the most energetic of people and she was not the healthiest either. She smoked like a chimney. Reggie was always concerned about her health. Long before she got ill and went to the emergency thinking she was about to die, he did all the housework. But after she was diagnosed with emphysema, he no longer complained. That hospital trip did give her a scare and she did stop smoking but she never resumed doing any housework though. She sat down all day and watched soap operas.


One time she told me about the dream she had the night before. In her dream, she was washing dishes, and the more she washed the more dishes there were. She just couldn’t seem to get to the bottom of the pile.


“But you don’t understand Carol, I washed so many dishes I was tired all day,”


“It was a dream!”


“I know but I am so tired from washing those dishes, I am going to bed early tonight.”


Sylvia was a character.


We were all shocked when Reggie was the one who was rushed to the hospital and died within a few hours. Everyone thought for sure that it would be Sylvia who would pass on first.


The family barely got through the funeral when they got her out of that house. They wanted her to live in a clean apartment much closer to them so they could keep an eye on her. For years they wanted their parents to move; the stubborn couple would not budge. It took the death of their father to get their mother to comply; as if she was really in a position to do otherwise.


I got the chance to visit Sylvia but once in her new apartment. She was completely lost; a broken woman. She knew who Rona and I were when we visited and she would talk intelligently and then two or three times she would ask “when is Reggie coming home?”


“Ma you know Daddy is dead now,” one of her grown up kids would answer.


It was so sad to see her that way.


Before we had a chance to make a second visit we heard that Sylvia passed away as well. It was just three weeks after her husband’s passing. I cannot say that I was surprised. I learned from my psychology courses that sometimes both elderly spouses would die within a short period of time from each other. 


I never thought I would witness it for myself.

Carol Roach Shares...

CAROL ROACH is a freelance writer and columnist for various newspapers. She is a published author for Picking up the Pieces: A Woman's Journey ( Publish America, 2004)  and has completed her second novel, Angels Watching Over Me.


Carol holds a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from McGill University in Montreal.


She also manages a successful online newsletter, Storytime Tapestry, showcasing the short stories and poems of over 380 Internet writers. Champion of the underdog, Carol's signature writing is about poverty and the ability to rise abovt it; giving women a voice through writing.


She sees her  writing as poignant and inspirational, encouraging everyone to let their true heart sing through the words that they write.