Just the Way You Are by
(85 Stories)

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Billy Joel’s recording of  “Just the Way You Are” was released (or “dropped” as we say now) in September of 1977. By early 1978, the song was still getting a lot of airplay on the radio. During the nearly four months my daughter was in the Intensive Care Nursery at UCSF, my husband and I  sat next to her crib for hours at a time. Whenever that song came on, played softly against the constant beeping of the monitors and the bustling activity of doctors and nurses, I looked at my baby girl with her Mohawk haircut (to accommodate IVs when they ran out of good veins), her NG tube, her scars and her chest tubes–and I would blink back the tears. When I was alone outside the hospital, I would always start to cry when I heard those first few notes.

And after each new setback and indignity, I would look at her and think: I love you just the way you are.





Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Oh my, Risa…yes, indeed. Songs bring us right back to certain moments and you tell us poignantly why this one is so meaningful for you. Though I only spent two days in Intensive Care with my 11 week old baby (who had meningitis, but also had IVs in his tiny arms; blood drawn from his feet), I can totally empathize and understand your tears and fears.

  2. Oh, Risa, your story has me blinking back tears. I’m sure I will think of this song in a different light the next time I hear it. And those sweet photos, and her big beautiful trusting eyes…so moving. ❤️

    • Risa Nye says:

      Thanks, Barbara. One of her doctors actually took those pictures and sent me the negatives after the fire. I never would have had them otherwise. A miracle, it seemed at the time. Thanks for your kind words.

  3. Marian says:

    So short, sweet, moved me to tears, Risa. I won’t thing of this song in the way I used to any more!

  4. Dave Ventre says:

    A very moving tale. This is one of my favorite Billy Joel tunes, of which I like many. Only got to see him live once, way back in April 1977. In our college gym! Not long afterwards, he got WAY bigger than a college gym audience.

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    This is so moving. I always liked that song, but this is special. I hope things turned out well after all those medical interventions. She clearly had your love.

    • Risa Nye says:

      Thanks, Khati. Things did turn out well for her. She will always need to be followed up, but she is healthy and strong. She became a nurse, which initially floored me–I thought she’d never want to set foot in a hospital again!

  6. Suzy says:

    Wow, the featured image of you and Caitlin is fabulous! As is the smaller one of Bruce with her on his chest. I’ve always loved this song, but your association of it with that difficult time in your life brings new meaning to it. Very poignant. Btw, I just looked at Caitlin’s facebook page, and it looks like she has a Mohawk again.

  7. Thanx for sharing this moving story Risa, and so thankful to learn your baby girl is now a healthy and strong young woman … and a nurse, bless her!

  8. Laurie Levy says:

    While I always loved that song, it now takes on new meaning for me. I have a daughter about the same age as yours, and her first baby ended up in the NICU for several days because she was so unexpectedly small and needed oxygen. It turned out she was diagnosed with CF two years later. Now, at age 15, she’s doing amazingly well and is a cross country runner. But of course, we never know how the story will end when we are holding and loving that sick baby. Thanks for sharing your story and reminding me of a beautiful song.

  9. Wow. I’ve known several people who have had to attend to their newborns in the NICU for days or weeks, and so I was right there with you. A very poignant piece. Thanks.

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