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.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Thank You

On Saturday we celebrated Errol’s second birthday. It was a grand occasion with gifts, treats, and PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE! Through the course of the day, Errol was feted by two aunts, an uncle, four cousins, four grandparents, and four friends. It was a wonderful day of presents, but Errol’s first birthday gift came a few days before his birthday, from a friend he doesn’t even know.

The executive director of Errol’s school called us the other day. We worried that Errol might have been misbehaving in school or was caught cheating again on a vision test. But thankfully, this time, it was good news. The director called to tell us that someone had paid for Errol’s school for the rest of the year. THANK YOU! Errol’s school is public, but because our boy is under five (the magical age that makes all parents drool over the prospect of free babysitting), Errol has to pay each month. (We take it out of his allowance.) The director was calling to tell us that Errol’s tab at the school had been picked up, and that he could not divulge the identity of Errol’s patron. THANK YOU!

Anonymous generosity is the highest form of goodness, and I just want to say that if I only knew who Errol’s generous patron was, I could stop being nice to all of our friends and relatives who are all suspects in this sordid affair. THANK YOU! Beyond the gratitude I have for the gift itself, this selfless kindness has taught me that good deeds done quietly have a ripple effect on everyone in the community. The receiver of the gift suspects all of their community of benevolence and is kind towards all; the multitude of suspects, in turn, receive a gift of good will from the giftee, and then want to pass this warm cheer on to others. In only 3 more steps the love spreads and brings peace to the Middle East, withdrawal from Iraq, and wine flowing from the sink in all homes. The only loser in this whole scenario is Errol, who was hoping for milk from the sink!

It is wonderful to be enveloped by a generous and caring community. Everywhere we turn we are greeted by endless kindnesses. Now about the new suit I was hoping to get for Easter! Thank you all for the many things you have done for our little family. We are eternally grateful. And if I’m not nice to you one day, it’s just because being this grateful for this long can wear a man down! THANK YOU!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Terrible Twos

Errol will turn two tomorrow.

The other day, we went to buy Quacky Quacker (Errol) birthday presents (don’t ask, don’t tell). The only toys that seemed appropriate for Mr. Quacky were the ones designed for infants. This is a leap year, someone born on February 29th four years ago only turned one this year. Errol is a bit of an honorary leap baby, growing at about one quarter speed. With Owen's birthdays we always mark many changes from the previous birthday, but because Errol is slow cooking, you have to look much harder to see the gains of the year. But there’s nothing wrong with looking hard, especially when there’s so much to see.

Of course, it’s hard to stay sad about Errol’s recalcitrant growth when the little fellow spends half of his time smiling, and the other half laughing.

A lot of parents who have disabled kids tell us that two is the hardest birthday. It's when you have to stop fooling yourself that your kid is going to grow out of it. After two you just sort of get used to it and stop thinking about it. (We’ll see.) Also, around the time most of these kids turn two, people start asking a lot of questions about their children’s age. Public life becomes a bit of a minefield. Once their children stop looking like babies, their size and development don’t match up or make sense to a lot of puzzled shoppers and curious diners. For now, we are still mostly getting comments about how cute or handsome Errol is (and he is!), but as he gets bigger I imagine we are going to get different comments soon. We’ve been learning sign language, and that’s where a certain very special sign comes in handy.

Still, I’m looking forward to Errol’s birthday. After all, we’ll all be together, there will be pumpkin cheesecake (his favorite), and it’s bound to be better than last year, when Errol got pneumonia for his birthday. Things may not be perfect (what is?), but it’s a pretty good bet that Errol will get better gifts than pneumonia.

Owen is very excited about Errol’s birthday. Tonight, as we put the boys to sleep, Owen asked his mother, “Mama, will Errol talk?” Cary’s tears probably answered the question for him. “Why are you sad?” he asked his mama. “We just want to know what’s going on in the Little Man’s head,” she told Owen, through her tears. Errol will probably never ask the kind of question Owen asked tonight. Maybe it’s better he won’t know the answer.