The crash team entering the delivery room was the first sign
December 5, 2014 10:47 PM   Subscribe

The specialists began to use terms such as "quality of life" to describe all the things she was likely to be without. My husband, Michael, realized it was going to be nearly impossible to pry me away from her bedside. He asked what he could bring me from home: a change of clothes, sweater, food, or something to read? I asked him to bring me anything by Anne McCaffrey.
"Changes Without Notice" is one reader's personal essay about discovering a book at just the right moment. An afterword in Dragonwriter says a little more about how things turned out. [Via and previously.]
posted by Monsieur Caution (12 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
That's a great essay; the room became rather dusty when I came to "well, she has a good liver"...

The Ship Who Sang was one of the books I discovered McCaffrey's writing with when I was twelve or so. I've reread it recently and found much of its magic had gone, but I can see why it resonated so much with her. It has that McCaffrey sentimentality that's at the heart of her best books, a real tear jerker. If you're sensitive to that sort of sentimentality, McCaffrey is one of the best, if not the best science fiction/fantasy writers to read.

Also, it's good to see fandom at its best and most welcoming in her story.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:02 AM on December 6, 2014 [7 favorites]

When we were allowed to bring her home, life became a dizzying whirlwind of therapists and doctors. I learned how to tune out and deflect statements that contained the words won’t or can’t. I searched for people who said things like “I don’t know if this will work, but we can give it a try.”
Oh god, this.

It has been eight years since my daughter was in the NICU with doctors talking about "quality of life" and "palliative care". Eight years of just focusing on the next step in front of her and me, of just "giving it a try" and watching her bloom into a wonderful little girl. I remember one month when I counted up all the appointments and it came out to twenty-two, as many appointments as there were working days in that month. My only choice was to be calm, steady, balanced. To just "give it a try", every day. Some days harder than others, but you just give it a try.

And here I am sitting in the library, tears on my face, trying not to start bawling and freak out the other patrons. It feels like these tears have been waiting for eight years.

Thanks for this story.
posted by clawsoon at 7:11 AM on December 6, 2014 [27 favorites]

I am not normally a softie, I am a 50 something former wall street trader, but this story and the little note on the afterward about her daughter Michelle got me.

Thank you for posting this. I never would have seen it otherwise and never would have known about Anne McCaffrey, her son Todd or Angelina Adams. I am a richer person for having read this.
posted by 724A at 7:53 AM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

That was wonderful to read. Creating something and sharing it is one of the most vulnerable things a person can do, and this story highlights how important it is to just share. Put your work out there, your self, your thoughts, send it downstream--you never know whom it will find, and how it will affect them. Anne McCaffrey sounds like she was a pretty damn terrific human being, and also someone who knew how powerfully human connection can affect people, and who honored that beautifully. As said above, I am a richer person for having read this.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:34 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Great article, thank you.
posted by alasdair at 11:39 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

That's pretty great, thank you for posting it. Also doe a nice job capturing the excitement of making connections on the early internet, as the Mefi profile question has it, "realizing it wasn't just a place for freaks after all."
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:48 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, great.
posted by chavenet at 3:07 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Every day since Michelle had been born, I was constantly glancing at monitors, searching for proof she was still alive. Rather than seeing her smile or hearing her cry, I would look for changes in her oxygen saturation numbers to tell me when she was happy or upset. The isolation and despair created by this medical barrier was quietly breaking my heart. I believed no one understood how I felt.

This article brought too many memories of sitting on the floor of an ICU, staring at beeping monitors, waiting for my son to come out of a coma, but it also made me recall all the joyful moments Anne McCaffrey provided in my life. Perhaps the magic of her books is gone but the memory of the enchantment is still here with me.
posted by francesca too at 5:59 PM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

I recently reread the first couple of Pern books not that long ago, and they still hold up fairly well.

Nothing will top the wonder of reading them while I was 12, but it was nice to recall some of that magic.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:23 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Anne McCaffrey was my gateway into adult SF/F. I remember gazing at the dragon books on my mother's shelves in longing and curiosity, but she wouldn't let me read 'em. Then when I was 7 or 8 she relented and started me on the Dragonsinger books.

I don't know that they'd be to my taste if I read them now, but by god those were books I needed in my life when I first read them.
posted by Andrhia at 9:09 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I soaked up the Pern books - I couldn't wait to finish one so I could read the next one. I still think about threadfall from time to time, still have a fondness for the Harper and Moreta and more. It was many years after my Pern binge that I ran across The Ship Who Sang and was entranced all over again. Actually that little book was recommended to me by my mother, who "didn't waste her time reading books"; something or someone had moved her to read Helva's story, which is a miracle in itself. I've never forgotten that book; I've had and given away many copies and there will always be one on my bookshelf.

Michelle's story brings tears, and poignant reflection on what matters in this crazy life; what a powerful story it is. I've no doubt that Anne was deeply moved at the impact The Ship Who Sang had on Michelle's family and I think I'd like to read more about Anne McCaffrey now.

Thanks so much for a great post.
posted by aryma at 10:35 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Posts like this are why I have been reading MeFi for over a decade. Best of the web indeed. Thanks!
posted by jopreacher at 5:19 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

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