In July of 1996 (now a college graduate), I was single and not sure where to go next. Like many, I had trouble meeting people (read: eligible women). My mom suggested trying the personals. There was a public access show on TV that twice a day ran ads for singles searching for other singles. So I called their number, placed an ad, and gave my mom's phone number as a contact (I didn't have my own phone at the time).
A week later, I saw my ad on the telly. They had put my info in and titled it, "Sweet Sounds on the Radio". I checked every few days to see if I had any messages. One afternoon, I went to my mom's and noticed that I had a message. I played it back. The woman sounded nice. She left a pager number for me to call her back at. I tried the number and, after some confusion on how to do it, left a numeric page.
She called me back about 10 minutes later and explained that she was an orderly at the Gundersen Lutheran hospital in LaCrosse. Like me, she had also graduated from Winona State two months prior. We talked for a short while (she had to get back to work) and exchanged phone numbers.
We called each other several times over the next week, gradually getting to know each other. Turns out we only lived about 8 blocks from each other. We couldn't meet that first weekend because she had prior plans to see a friend in the Cities and go to a play ("Fiddler on the Roof") with her. We made tentative plans to meet at the Golden China restaurant (even though I didn't like Chinese) in Winona on Saturday, July 27th.
However, on Wednesday the 24th, I called her and asked about getting together that evening. She wasn't so sure, but did agree. We decided to meet at the Winona Information Center on Huff Street right next to Lake Winona. She told me what kind of car she would be driving, what she looked like, etc. so that I would know when I saw her. I got off the phone and rode my mountain bike to Huff.
I got there a bit early and sat down on a bench just outside of the Center. I was nervous, but definitely excited. I saw a car enter the parking lot like the one she described, a 93 Dodge Colt (which she continued to drive until late 2007). She got out of her car. I saw her. She saw me. She had a big smile on her face. She had these big Coke-bottle type glasses on her face, so it was hard to really see what she looked like. She sat down and asked if I wanted to go for a walk. We proceeded to walk around the smaller of Winona's 2 lakes.
She asked me lots of questions and when I would answer, she would say, "Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh". After our circuit around the lake, I was unsure what (if anything) we should do next. She suggested we go to the Acoustic Cafe. So she drove there while I biked. I had a lemonade while she had some type of sandwich. We continued to talk and afterwards outside, I gave her a hug. I wasn't sure what was to come with this young lady I had just met, but that meeting more than a decade ago turned out to be a major turning point in my life.