Oprah and Me


When I was in my late twenties and living in Madison, Wisconsin, I had to get my wisdom teeth pulled. I shuddered at the thought of  having my gums sliced open and impacted molars removed, but looked forward to a couple of days off from work as a medical illustrator at the VA Hospital. The day after the surgery I rested in bed at the rental house that my sister Patty and I shared. My boyfriend of three years planned to stop by later that afternoon to check in on me.

Later that afternoon and groggy on Tylenol 3’s with codeine, I decided to catch up on few programs on our small Zenith TV including a new show broadcast from Chicago, called the Oprah Winfrey Show. I curled up on the black “pleather” couch wrapped in a blanket, as the spunky host interviewed new candidates competing for a job as an advice columnist. The ten men and women perched in tall swivel chairs across the stage. Every time someone from the audience asked a question, they all would respond differently. Finally a caller asked what she should do about a relationship she was in. “I have been dating the same guy for the last two years and every time I bring up any serious issues concerning our future together, my boyfriend doesn’t want to talk about it.” The camera panned the row and they all had the same answer.

“Give him the ultimatum,” the first one said, followed by the entire row and the show faded to a commercial.

Well, you can only imagine how that hit me! Through a codeine-induced haze, I groggily formed a single thought. “I will give my boyfriend the ultimatum when I see him this afternoon!” I smiled as I checked the time and realized he would be knocking on the door any minute. I was recovering from oral surgery. You can only imagine what I looked like. My crack head hair stuck up in all directions. No make-up had come close to my bruised and swollen face which now vaguely resembled Jay Leno’s. I couldn’t brush my teeth or use mouthwash. Salt water rinses weren’t really cutting it for me. I hadn’t showered in 2 days.

When I heard the knock on the door, I flew through the house forgetting about the goofy eyeglasses I wore and the dragon breath which emanated from the clotted blood in the back of my mouth. As I greeted my unsuspecting boyfriend and reached out to give him a big bear hug. I noticed he physically flinched! “Oprah says that I should give you the ultimatum!” I blurted out.

He took a huge step backward almost falling off the front entry stoop. “I never had any intention of marrying you!” he replied which shocked me out of my foggy state of mind. He turned and briskly walked, almost ran to his bike. Oh my God! What had I done?

This started a break up that dragged on for a month. By Memorial Day weekend, I’d had enough. I told him to make a commitment or I was moving on. In a lot of ways I already felt like it was over. He went up to his family’s cabin in northern Wisconsin. I called my Mom and Dad and suggested that we go to a Brewer Game to get my mind off all the drama. My Mom said that she had been to bridge club that week with Marilyn Lindau who told everyone her son Danny was coming to town from Denver, Colorado, where he had bought a toy and school supply business.

I grew up with Danny’s younger brothers and had always admired the oldest, from afar. Their family and ours had been close for years so my mom made a phone call to see if they were available for a road trip. The Lindaus were in!

piggyback ride

Patty and I called a few friends. We all met at my parent’s house and caravanned down to the stadium in Milwaukee. Timing can be everything and Danny and I hit it off. We blatantly flirted which each other during the tailgate. He told me how much he enjoyed living in Colorado and about his wholesale business. I could see where he would be a great toy salesman with all the enthusiasm he exuded. He had broken his leg jumping cornices skiing at Arapahoe-basin so he hobbled around on crutches. I used it as an excuse to wait on him, by keeping his cup full and filling his plate at the picnic.

family tailgating at Brewer game

After a very exciting day, Danny flew back to Colorado. My boyfriend came back into town and we broke up. I felt like I had blown my opportunity with Danny until an invitation arrived in the mail inviting my sister and me to the Telluride Blue Grass Festival in June. My sister couldn’t go, but I could hardly wait to fly out. My mom and Marilyn drove me out to the airport. It was a fabulous weekend filled with sightseeing in Colorado, amazing music, and relating to someone I felt I had known my whole life.

We booked the priest and the church over the 4th of July weekend and were married in October. When I mentioned to my friends that I had become engaged they responded, “I’m so glad you and your boyfriend are finally getting married!” I had to explain that someone new had come into my life.

danny and susie

After almost twenty four years of telling my story, Oprah is signing off from her show. The last one will air on Wednesday, May 25th. My only regret is that Oprah will probably never hear about the impact she’s had on me. She has helped thousands, maybe millions of people through the years. How she changed the course my life might seem minor compared to the influence she’s had on others. I only know the opportunity to make the connection with Danny could have only occurred that weekend, since he rarely visited Wisconsin.

The chain reaction of events which culminated in my happy life would never have transpired without the day I sat wrapped in a blanket and watched the Oprah Winfrey Show for the first time.

Thanks Oprah! I’ll see you on your new network OWN.

Photographs by Wikimedia and S. Lindau 

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