Errol Milner Clifford 2006-2009

Errol Milner Clifford was born with a significant heart defect and a cognitive disability that prevented him from walking or talking. As we grieved the child we had anticipated, Errol’s full-bodied smile and irrepressible laugh turned our sorrow into joy, and taught us that many of the best things in life are unexpected. Inspired by Errol’s delightful spirit, friends, family, and neighbors rallied to support our family’s significant emotional, physical, and financial needs, through countless acts of selfless generosity. When Errol’s courageous heart finally failed him on December 23, 2009 we were left numb with grief. In these dark hours we listen hopefully for the echoes of Errol’s brilliant laugh. This blog is the story (starting from present and working back to Errol's birth) of the life and times of the amazing Errol Clifford.

Friday, February 29, 2008

I Love You

Now that Errol’s almost two (Saturday, March 8) we’re working hard on signing with him. This week we’ve been working on the learning the three best words in the English language.

The sign for “I Love You” is simple. You point to yourself: I. Then you fold your arms together across your chest: love. Then you point at the object of your love: you.

Errol loves it when we tell him we love him. (We say it a lot – we mean it a lot.)
He grins his wide grin and shrieks with joy. After we’d been working on “I love you” for a while, I noticed that Errol was pointing his little finger up in the air (sort of like Errol’s famous “number one baby” sign, if you remember those days). At first, I didn’t think much of Errol’s pointing, but soon I realized that just about every time we told him we loved him, he was pointing right back at us.

After a few days of pointing, Errol went a step farther in responding to our signing by not only pointing, but also by crossing himself (not Catholic crossing – he’s Buddhist – love, crossing). We couldn’t believe it. But he really did point and cross (and I swear I even heard him saying “IIIIIIIIIIIIIiiiiIIIIIIIIiiiiiiiIII”). The next day, I told his absolutely astounding teacher, Karen, the good news. I finished the story by saying that, of course, sometimes parents hear and see what they want to see. But as quick as a wink, Karen replied, “And sometimes they hear what their child is saying!” And she’s right. Give the little man his propers!

Errol doesn’t perform on command, and he’s been known to backslide a little, so don’t expect a show the next time you see him. But if you’re lucky, if you tell Errol you love him, and you watch carefully, you might just get the sweetest pointing and crossing in the whole wide world.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Talking by hand

Here’s a quote sent to us from Errol’s grandmother, Luly.

He who postpones the hour of living is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses. –Horace (65-8 BCE)

We don’t know exactly what Errol’s disability is, but we’ve worried that it will keep him from talking. Errol can be a babbling brook (just ask his brother who shares his room), but it’s not certain if his gooooos and gaaaahs will turn into hellos and Obamas and other words we can decipher. The other night, after we tucked the boys into bed, we could hear Errol’s sweet (to us) noises from their room, followed by Owen’s entreaty, “Be quiet Errol,” which for some reason caused Errol to laugh uproariously, which upset Owen all the more and made him yell, “BE QUIET ERROL!” which just upped the ante and made Errol erupt into hysterics, which really made Owen indignant. It ramped up and up until finally they both fell asleep exhausted. We tried not to laugh, but didn’t succeed.

With his wonderful new teachers, Karen and Tamara, we’ve been doing all we can to help Errol learn to communicate through sign (it’s easier than talking or Morse code). And now the big payoff has finally arrived, Errol has learned the sign for more (his two little hands touching together – usually followed by a huge smile). Right now, all his signing revolves around food (who can blame him, his mama’s a baker) but one day we hope it will expand to involve other more important things in life, beer and wine.

When we think of what Errol was like, just a few months ago, it’s absolutely remarkable that he can communicate with us and tell us what he wants (and doesn’t – Washington partisanship, reality TV shows, deficit spending). We are so thrilled that Errol is signing, and it seems like a bridge has connected our worlds. Because it’s been so slow coming, each little bit feels all the bigger. Errol is so proud of himself and so are we. I think we’ll work on the sign for impeach next.

That river is running and we are crossing it.