When Andy Callahan told Emily Wright and her husband Martin that he wanted to come over to discuss something “important”, she knew exactly what he wanted to talk to them about. Martin didn’t know it, but their daughter Jan had moved in with Andy a few months earlier, and things were clearly quite serious between the two of them.
Emily had spent years worrying about her youngest daughter before Andy came along. She was fairly sure that Jan had never had a boyfriend and had few, if any, friends. She worried there was a chance her daughter was a lesbian, although that seemed preferable to the idea that Jan just had trouble connecting with other people. When she saw Jan with Andy and how happy he clearly made her, she was extremely relieved.
No, Andy wasn’t perfect. He was nearly 13 years older than her daughter and he was disabled and in a wheelchair. He wasn’t exactly the kind of guy who a mother pictured her daughter ending up with. But he also had a steady job, owned his own house, and most importantly, he treated Jan like gold. Jan and Andy were crazy about each other. And Jan had confided in her mother than the sex was “mind-blowing.”
Martin Wright had made no secret of the fact that he wasn’t too happy about Jan’s choice of a boyfriend. That was why Jan decided not to tell her father when she moved in with Andy. But Jan had said that they didn’t want to wait too long before settling down and starting a family, since Andy was creeping closer to forty. So Martin was going to have to accept Andy sooner rather than later.
As Andy sat in his wheelchair in the living room of the Wright household, Emily could see how nervous he looked. He kept wringing his hands together and shifting his weight. Jan had told her than Andy had been engaged once before, but his fiancé had left him after he was injured. Andy seemed like such a nice guy and Emily couldn’t help but feel sympathy for him.
Martin must have had an inkling of what Andy wanted to ask but he was playing dumb. He didn’t like the fact that Andy was in a wheelchair, but he didn’t want to say it, so he focused on the age issue. It was a little hypocritical, considering Martin was eight years older than she was. Her own parents hadn’t been too happy about that age difference, but it had been nice to marry a man who was more stable in his life than her friends’ husbands.
Martin also had some bad feelings about the way that Andy and Jan had met. Jan had been a little close-lipped about the whole thing, but Emily knew that Andy had been Jan’s anatomy professor. She hadn’t been surprised when he daughter dropped out of medical school, since she never thought she was well suited for that kind of career, but Martin had been disappointed. He had told his wife on several occasions that he believed Jan had left school because of some “funny business” going on with Andy.
“Mr. and Mrs. Wright, thanks for letting me come over to talk to you,” Andy began. When Emily had come over to his house in the past, she had allowed him to call her by her first name, but she understood the formality right now.
Martin grunted, “What’s this about?”
Andy’s hands were shaking and Emily’s heart went out to him. Despite the wheelchair, Emily knew what her daughter saw in him. He seemed a lot younger than his age and he was very attractive. She found herself getting lost in his blue Irish eyes on several occasions. “I, uh…” he began. “Jan and I… well, we’ve been getting more serious.”
“More serious?” Martin raised his eyebrows. “What does that mean?”
Andy glanced over at Emily and she nodded at him, encouraging him to go on. “Sir, I would like to ask Jan to marry me. And I wanted to get your blessing first.”
Emily saw her husband’s face turn red. Despite all signs to the contrary, she knew he had been hoping Jan’s relationship with Andy would blow over. “Marry you?” Martin repeated. “Aren’t there any women your own age?”
“Martin!” Emily smacked her husband in the arm. Jan was in her mid-20s and Andy in his mid-30s, so it wasn’t as if she was marrying someone who was in his fifties, like they were.
“I understand how you feel, sir,” Andy said, still being very respectful. “But Jan and I love each other very much. I know I’m a little older than her and because of that, I can provide her with things that another 24 year old can’t. I’ve got a career and I’ve got a house. I can support her.”
“You really think she’ll say yes?” Martin challenged him.
“Jan and I have discussed marriage many times,” Andy said calmly. “And yes, I do believe she will say yes.”
Emily looked down at Andy’s legs, motionless in the single footplate. Jan had told her that he had been injured when he was her age, and as a result had dropped out of med school himself. It was admirable that he had accomplished so much with his life, even after that kind of setback.
Martin seemed to be struggling to come up with a reason to throw his daughter’s boyfriend out on his ass. Emily wanted to step in and save him, but she also wanted to give Andy a chance to save himself, to say what needed to be said.
“I’m sure you’d prefer your daughter weren’t marrying a man who’s disabled,” Andy said. Emily blinked at his guts. She didn’t think he’d go right out and say what everyone was thinking.
Martin coughed, “I didn’t—”
“It’s okay, I understand,” Andy said. “Most guys aren’t in a wheelchair. I’m sure you think that Jan could do better, and I don’t know, maybe she could. But I love her very much and I’ll be good to her. And if it helps my case, I’m in excellent health otherwise. I’ll take care of myself… for her.”
Martin looked over at Emily for support, but she wasn’t about to offer him any. She knew how crazy Jan was about this man and she wanted things to work out for them. Andy had said everything he wanted to say and he was quiet now, waiting to hear what their response would be. Emily was the one to break the silence: “Andy, we would love to have you as a son-in-law.”
“Thanks, Emily,” Andy said, smiling as he dropped the formalities.
Martin hesitated a long time. Finally, he stuck out his right hand for Andy to shake, “Welcome to the family, son.”
When Andy proposed to Jessica, they were walking through the park in the moonlight and he pretended to see a penny on the ground. He bent down to pick up the fictional penny, but instead got down on one knee with a diamond ring. He never would have believed he’d be returning that ring only a few months later.
Andy wished that his proposal to Jan could have been his first, but at least it would be different. He couldn’t exactly get down on one knee anymore, that was for sure. But he had a plan for something romantic and surprising. He hoped this would be the only proposal Jan would ever get, so he wanted to make it special for her.
The ring, at least, was a step up from the first one he had bought. He had enough money to afford something really extravagant, but he knew that wasn’t Jan’s style. He worked with the saleslady at Tiffany’s to buy a ring that was beautiful yet modest. It was something that Jan could wear in her daily life without feeling self-conscious.
His shoulder surgery, ironically, was what made him realize that Jan was the woman he was meant to spend his life with. It was easy to have a great relationship in times of richness, but he was outright shocked by Jan’s dedication to him in times of poor health. She visited him during his hospital stay, and when he came home, she waited patiently while his assistant transferred him into bed and then shut the door to his bedroom before she pounced on him. She stepped up her role in his life to help out with cooking and some cleaning. She had a whole tender, nourishing side that he never knew about. Although he had initially been reluctant to have her in his life during his recovery, it turned out he didn’t know what he would have done without her.
His proposal plan was to give her the ring over a romantic dinner. He was supposed to meet Jan at the restaurant, which would give him time to talk to the hostess about setting up the proposal. He arrived a good ten minutes early and approached the pretty young hostess in her late twenties, whose nametag declared her to be Paula. He was almost more nervous about this conversation than he was about the proposal, since he knew he was going to get a funny look when he told the hostess his plans. It wasn’t every day that a guy in a wheelchair proposed to his girlfriend.
“How may I help you, sir?” the hostess Paula asked in a mildly condescending tone as he wheeled over to her.
Andy reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the ring box. “Yeah, um… I, uh…”
Her eyes widened, “Are you proposing?”
Andy grinned sheepishly, “Yeah, kind of.”
“Good for you!” Paula said, once again in that same condescending tone.
“Do you think you could put the ring on the dessert plate?” Andy asked. He didn’t know how he was going to make it through the whole meal without giving away his nervousness, but he didn’t want to have the ring come out with a bowl of pasta. Or in a glass of wine that she might drink before seeing the ring.
“Yes, of course,” Paula said. She took the ring box from his hand and opened it up to see the diamond inside. “Wow, that’s beautiful. She must be really special.”
Andy tried to smile, but he was too nervous. He wasn’t sure why. He and Jan had discussed marriage many times before, and she had all but told him what her answer would be. Still, maybe she would feel differently when presented with a ring. Maybe she’d look at him and realize what a huge mistake it would be to get married.
“Well, good luck,” Paula said, patting him on the shoulder.
She led him to their table, which he was relieved to see was a somewhat secluded area in the back. He knew the proposal was bound to be a bit of a spectacle and he didn’t want everybody straining their necks to see who the guy in the wheelchair was asking to marry him. Even after so many years of wheeling, Andy disliked the stares he got sometimes.
Andy had a good view of the restaurant from his seat, and he kept his eyes on the front door, waiting for Jan. After she had left med school, Jan hadn’t known what to do with her life. But Andy had a lot of experience with career counseling from his work with other med students, and he helped her realize the perfect career for her. A year ago, Jan had enrolled in a PhD program in clinical psychology. She was very happy in the program, although she now had several late nights every week. He didn’t mind much though. After so many years of living alone, Andy was used to having the house to himself.
Fifteen minutes passed and Jan was officially late. He turned away the waiter twice before finally ordering himself a drink. Just as the glass of red wine arrived, his cell phone rang. It was Jan’s voice: “Honey, I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Andy said, trying not to let on how agitated he was that she was late on this night, of all nights.
“I’ve still got another subject to work with,” Jan said. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it.”
Andy felt his stomach sink, “You’re kidding.”
“Did you already order?”
“Maybe you can get the food to go,” she suggested. “I’ll probably be starving when I get home.”
Andy sighed and rubbed his temple, “Yeah, don’t worry about it. I’ll have the food waiting for you.”
Andy didn’t know he was going to manage this. He needed to get his ring back, then attempt to explain the situation. He knew it looked like he had been stood up and it was embarrassing as hell. Andy was trying to get the attention of a waiter when the pretty hostess Paula, who had been hovering around him since had arrived, approached the table unsolicited, her eyes wide: “Is your girlfriend late?”
“Not exactly,” Andy mumbled. “She’s not coming.”
“Oh…” Paula’s eyes filled with sympathy and Andy winced. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s… it’s not a big deal…”
“Let me buy you a drink,” Paula said.
Andy frowned and looked up at her, “Uh, really, I’m okay…” He didn’t want her to feel like she had to buy him a drink out of pity.
“I want to,” she said. And with those words, she slid into the seat across from him. “I’ll have one too.”
“No, I’m okay,” he insisted. “Really.”
“I want to,” she repeated.
Andy glanced down and saw that Paula had crossed her long legs in a way that she knew he’d be able to see them, and she had hiked up her skirt. He still didn’t take the hint until he noticed her hand on his knee. His jaw fell open as he realized that Paula wasn’t buying him a drink because she felt sorry for him. She was actually hitting on him. He couldn’t believe it.
“I, uh… I have a girlfriend,” he stammered, flashing Paula a quick cockeyed grin.
“Well, where is she?” Paula said breathily.
He was flattered, to say the least. A pretty girl like Paula hitting on him was a rare occurrence, but it provided him with some reassurance that Jan wasn’t out of her mind for being attracted to him. There were days when he wondered what Jan was thinking, settling down with someone like him. As much as she tried to convince him that he was good enough, he still had his doubts sometimes.
“She’s home,” Andy told Paula, “and that’s where I’m going.”
Jan Wright remembered the exact moment when she first imagined spending her life with Andy Callahan.
They were sitting in a restaurant, enjoying their dinner, when Jan noticed Andy was looking at the table next to them. There was a young couple sitting at that table with an adorable baby boy. As the couple doted on their small son, Jan couldn’t help but see the smile creeping onto Andy’s face.
“You like kids, don’t you?” Jan observed.
“Oh,” Andy laughed, embarrassed at being caught. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“You want to have one?” she asked.
“Well, you know, I’m getting closer to forty,” he mumbled. “So yeah, I’ve been thinking about it. I mean, I do. I really do.”
As Jan looked into Andy’s bright blue eyes, she couldn’t help but think what an amazing dad he would be someday. He was so gentle and patient—it was one of the things she loved most about him. “Any thoughts on who you want to have them with?”
“A few,” Andy teased, staring back into her eyes.
“Me too,” she replied.
It was the first time they ever spoke about the future, the possibility of having children together and spending their lives together. Jan knew that Andy would be an incredible husband and she couldn’t imagine marrying anyone else. Lately, it seemed like they talked about it more and more, even though he hadn’t formally proposed. Andy was 37 years old and eager to start a family, although he felt strongly that he wanted more time with just the two of them as a couple and that Jan needed to establish her own career first. He was the one who encouraged her to go to graduate school. He told her he wanted her to stay on her birth control pills until she got her PhD. And she had. That’s why it was going to be so hard to talk to him today.
The truth was, Jan didn’t have a late patient. She knew Andy had a romantic dinner planned, but her heart wasn’t in it. She drove home from work, stopping only briefly at the drug store to buy a test to confirm what she already knew was true.
By the time Andy got home, Jan was sitting alone in his dining room, gently fingering the life-sized models of the heart and lungs on the table. She remember the first time she had seen these, how funny it had seemed that he kept the models on the table. Now she couldn’t imagine how the room would look without them.
“You’re home,” Andy raised his eyebrows, surprised to see her. He wheeled across the room to meet her at the table.
“Are you angry at me?” Jan asked.
Andy ran a hand through his black hair. “Angry? No, of course not. Your work is important and I understand that.”
Jan felt her eyes fill with tears. He was so sweet, so understanding about everything. She didn’t know how to tell him this, what he would say.
“Jan, what’s wrong?” he asked, his blue eyes filled with concern.
Jan slid the pregnancy test with the two blue lines across the table to him. “How about now?”
Andy looked down at the test and furrowed his brow. “What is… are you… pregnant?”
Andy stared down at the test for a minute, then looked back up at her, his face glowing. “I… I can’t believe it. I thought you were on the pill?”
Jan sighed, “Well, I guess it failed me. Only 99% right? I’m sorry, Andy.”
“Sorry?” He shook his head as reached out for her hand. “Jan honey, this is the happiest day of my life. Yeah, I wanted you to finish your schooling first, but… you know how much I wanted this.”
She reached over to take his outstretched hand and she noticed there was something in it. Confused, she pulled away and saw that he was holding a blue velvet box. “What…?”
“I had wanted to give this to you at dinner,” Andy said, opening the box to reveal the sparkling diamond inside, “but you stood me up. I guess I can forgive you though. What do you say, Jan?”
Jan’s eyes filled with tears as he kissed her and she whispered the word yes over and over.
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