Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Doler Days

"The only woman I ever loved, I married."- Mr. Doler
Looking at the picture sweeps a bittersweet smile across my face. I miss that smile already. Being back in Oxford and not going to the Veteran's Home is odd. For the past two and half years, I have moseyed down the hallways searching for Mr. Miller and Mr. Doler and their vibrant smiles, and when I would finally lock eyes with them as they were wheeling towards me, I would instantly know that I was learning a lot more than how to play a game of dominoes. I was learning about life. I was learning about love. The roots and depths of companionship. The power of one simple smile. Ultimately, I was learning about myself as Mr. Doler and Mr. Miller helped knock down the domino walls of my heart on a weekly basis and poured their lives into mine. If you have read my blogs from last year, you know that I lost Mr. Miller last November. Last month, Mr. Doler returned home as well. So today, this post is dedicated to my sweet Mr. Doler and the past year I got to spend with you. I love you.
I remember one day that I was visiting Mr. Doler, he told me about journalism students from Ole Miss that were interviewing some of the veterans. He was being interviewed, and as we played dominoes, we talked about some of the questions that he was asked and the story of his life that he gave. When the article was published, Mr. Doler gave me a copy, and there was one line that sent my hopeless-romantic, head-in-more-than-the-clouds-more-like-fairytale, female heart reeling. In the article, he had answered a question, and he stated, "The only woman I ever loved, I married." I am pretty sure I jumped out of my chair and hugged him as soon as I read that line. This also had deeper sentiment to me because I cannot tell you how many times in conversation Mr. Doler would randomly interject "My wife and I would have been married almost 55 years if she hadn't passed away." Each time I would smile like I had not heard this tidbit for the 500th time, and each time it would always touch my heart like it was the first time he said it. Although there are many conversations and memories with Mr. Doler that I remember and cherish, I believe this is the piece of advice that I will hold the most dear from my domino friend.

The only woman I ever loved, I married. I know what you're thinking. Come on, Shelby, you've said that three times now. We get it- your mind is frolicking on the set of Sleepless in Seattle or rowing in a boat with Noah in The Notebook- what's the real point?

The real point and lesson to take from my friend is that in our lives, we do not fight and pursue the things we love sometimes. We let all sorts of obstacles hinder our paths- resistance, fear, pride, judgment, others' opinions, doubt, selfishness, (fill in the blank with your excuse), and we watch things and people we love slip through our lifeless fingers like grains of sand. Instead of almost making a 50th year marker, we sometimes look back on our lives with regret and hear bells of what-ifs echoing through our minds. Mr. Doler did not let the world get in his way- when he found the ONLY girl he loved, he married her. When the country he loved was in need, he stepped up to the plate and served. He lived a life fighting for his loves. I remember one day shortly before he died, he told me he hoped that he made it to 90 (he would have been 90 next month). Mr. Doler, I wish you had made it to 90 because I know you would have lived this month with more love than most people have in a lifetime.

So there's the challenge to me and you from that ridiculously adorable face pictured above. Find the things, the people, the beliefs, the places, the relationships, the dreams, the goals, the passions in your life that you LOVE and "marry" them. Fight for them "for better, for worse." Carry them throughout your life "till death do you part." Because when you're 89 and you look back on the years of life, isn't that what you want it to be filled with- love and all of its indescribable experiences?
I love you Mr. Doler. I know that you'll be waiting there one day, and I can't wait to see you again and only hope I can tell you that I lived a life that was full of fighting for love.

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