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.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pie Eating Contest

Errol’s mother and I go to great lengths to be happy. Errol doesn’t have to go anywhere. He’s happy right where he is.

Which is great; and makes me worry. Errol is always so happy right where he is that he doesn’t try to go anywhere else. Which may just be the point, or maybe not.

19 millennia ago, the people who lived around modern day Lascaux, France painted their lives on cave walls. For over twenty five hundred years, these Paleolithic folk painted their world in exactly the same style. Archeologists believe that these ancient cave dwellers must have achieved a kind of cultural equilibrium, and were so satisfied with their lives that for generation after generation, they did not want to change.

This story says as much about us as them. As impressive as our pace of change is, it also shows that we moderns are pretty damn dissatisfied with our lot. And while we can point to the many longer years we live today (I’ve already doubled the average Paleolithic life span), we don’t always seem to have fun with all those extra years we get. Modern life is like a pie eating contest where the prize for winning is more pie.

Errol has for most of his life been remarkably, dare I say unbelievably, satisfied with everything. “How’s your milk, Errol?” Smile. “Would you like to read a book, Errol?” Smile. “Did the doggie just vomit on your head, Errol?” Smile. With Errol, just about everything has been not just fine, but great! Sometimes, as Errol laughed his way through his first two and a half years of life, I found myself wishing he was just a wee bit less satisfied, and a tad more inclined to change things: crawl, talk, walk, complain! Recently, finally, thankfully, at long last, Errol has been showing signs of dissatisfaction. He’s been flipping and flapping around more, screaming when left alone, wiggling his way across the floor, voting for Obama. In short, Errol is less content. Which is a good thing, if it leads to his crawling and talking. But if the goal is contentedness, then perhaps he was better off last year when he was ever happy. What would those cave dwellers make of us? And what would they think of Errol, laughing as the world swirls around him. In a perfect world, Errol would be pissed off just enough to learn to walk and talk, and still laugh at my pirate jokes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Two years ago, when Errol was diagnosed with mental retardation we cried and cried.

Errol’s favorite piece of therapeutic equipment sits atop four wheels, has a tight turning radius, and is called The Bronco. Errol is riding his tricked-out Bronco across the living room floor. He has a massive grin on his face and is laughing at the top of his lungs. His unsuspecting brother waves a foam sword at Errol, who rolls towards him at full speed. Owen is laughing too; he doesn’t yet see that Errol has a foam sword of his own wedged under his arm. It’s pointed right at Owen. They joust. Errol wins again.

Errol can’t talk, he can’t walk, he can’t even sit up by himself. Sometimes when I’m feeding Errol and he bobbles his head and gets food all over himself and me I think, “why can’t you just eat like a normal kid?” (Not very empathetic, you might rightly think. As if Errol really chose to be wheelchair bound!) Sometimes I see other kids his age running around, playing, and I think that Errol will never have these simple pleasures.

We went to a play tonight. Errol laughs at the funny parts and he laughs at the serious parts. He laughs right through the whole damn play. Errol is ever more connected with the world outside him. He keeps swiveling his little head around, mid-laugh, to see his mother, then me, to make sure we get the joke. We do (Hamlet’s soliloquy was hilarious!) When Errol thinks something is funny, it is.

Errol is mentally retarded, but now we just laugh and laugh.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama Wins

Obama Wins. Yes we can! Si se puede! Errol is so excited. We all are.