Just Happy To Be Here

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I’m just happy to be here,’ is a common cliché, tossed off by polite guests. But David Ellison really is just happy to be here. Here’s why...

One month before I was supposed to be born, my umbilical cord ruptured. When my distraught dad arrived at the Catholic hospital, the doctor warned him, “There’s no hope for your child, and you better pray for your wife.”

I was born by emergency cesarean section. The physician took one look at me and baptized me on the spot, convinced I would soon perish. A nurse later did, too. (All told, I’ve been baptized three times!)

As mom finally woke up, nearly delirious from blood loss and anesthesia, she asked the nurse about me. “It was a boy,” she replied.

My mom collapsed on the pillow and grieved, believing that, in using the past tense, “It WAS a boy,” the nurse had put my death as tenderly as possible.


And on the third day…the family pediatrician showed up. “What are you doing here?” my mom asked.

“I’ve come to see your baby.” The doctor replied

“My baby’s dead!”

“No he’s not!” exclaimed the doctor and he quickly returned with me, incubator and all.

My resurrection is now the stuff of legend, recounted again and again at family gatherings. It always includes how my uncle Jerry responded when Mom, proud as could be, unwrapped my swaddling: “Gosh, when we get ‘em that small, we throw ‘em back.” Mom wouldn’t talk to him for a week, but now even she laughs.

Despite all my baptisms, I’m not a religious man. Even so, I am uncommonly grateful to be alive. I’ve always believed I’ve been living on borrowed time, and so have tried to make the most of it.

I used to repeat to myself that old adage, “Live every day as if it were your last, and one of these days you’ll be right.”

I have since altered it to my own liking: “Live every day as if it were a gift, and every day you’ll be right.”

With a Perspective, I’m David Ellison.

David Ellison teaches American history and LGBTQ studies in Union City.