Hopes rise blooming

The five of us at our San Antonio home, 1998.
Matt is at bottom right.

Our sweetest hopes rise blooming
And then again are gone,
They bloom and fade alternate,
And so it goes rolling on.

I know it, and it troubles
My life, my love, my rest,
My heart is wise and witty,
And it bleeds within my breast.
Heinrich Heine

Recently, several of you asked me to update you on Matt. I asked him whether he had anything to say to you, or something he would like me to write about, but he was noncommittal. Unlike Jeff used to do, however, Matt did not specifically ask me not to write about himself.

I haven’t written a great deal in this blog about his teenage years, but going through some recently scanned photos, I found several that I want to share with you. Looking at the photos below, all of which were made before his first manic episode changed our lives, I realize that everyone, each one of us, leaves behind so much of our youth when we enter adulthood. The dreams and goals change, tempered by hard realities, and enthusiastic hope gradually matures into acceptance of life’s limitations.

Matt is no different from anyone else in this regard. His teen years were full of activity, effort, achievement and fun, despite the painful surgeries he endured, and the frustrating disabilities that made goals more difficult to reach. It is a bittersweet experience to look back at the happy photos of those years, whether I am recalling Matt’s youth or Drew’s. Yet, where Matt is concerned, I now wonder how I found the energy to spend hours with him every single day on homework, piano practice, OT, PT and speech therapy exercises, church youth projects, and most of all, daily working to help him overcome his motor skills deficits to become independent with basic living skills that others had mastered with little to no effort during early childhood.

Here’s a side of Matt that many of you have not seen before. I hope you will like these photos.

Drew and Matt with a very young Pasha, 1997

Drew is 16 months older than Matt, but Matt hit puberty first, and for a time he was taller than Drew. That’s hard to imagine now that Drew is over six feet tall, and Matt is only 5’5″– but this photo was made during those years.

Matt and I played a duet at a spring recital in 1998.

When Matt was in middle school, his teacher immediately noticed his ear for music, and put us in touch with a gifted woman who taught students with disabilities to play piano and other instruments. Though previous school staff and therapists had told us Matt would never learn to move his fingers separately, this amazing music teacher proved them all wrong, and soon Matt was playing fairly well.

He loved being able to make music, and his teacher had high expectations, scheduling performances three to four times every year for all her students, and insisting that they compete in juried guild auditions alongside their non-disabled peers. At these auditions, Matt had to play scales, chords and arpeggios, along with several memorized pieces, and he always passed with high marks. I don’t even want to think about how many hours it took, though.

For the most part, Matt never complained about the hours every day we had to practice for him to get the fingering and timing right. Best of all, this endless exercise for his fingers opened the door for him to be able to use computer keyboards– another thing school IEP teams had formerly told us he could never do. He ended up being able to keyboard all his school assignments at the rate of about 17 words per minute, which was useful since his handwriting has always been illegible.

Here’s a close-up of Matt with his braces.

Matt and Drew each wore braces for nearly three years. Sometimes I got really sick of driving back and forth to the orthodontist weekly in heavy afternoon traffic. Since I was working full time for much of that time, life was pretty stressful. I certainly don’t miss that aspect of having teenagers!

Matt with his all-time favorite girlfriend, Katherine, in 1998.

Our years in San Antonio were filled with social activities for Matt. During that time I once remarked that our entire calendar was built around his many scheduled and unscheduled outings with friends. Luckily, I really enjoyed being with all the other Moms, since we ended up playing chaperones. I had the blessing of friendships with some of the strongest and liveliest women I had ever known, and Matt loved his friends’ mothers almost as much as he loved me. It was wonderful, a golden time that I missed so much when we moved to California in 1999.

Matt was chosen “Most Inspirational” at his middle school graduation in California, 2000.

Despite having to leave his friends and spend his final year of middle school at a new campus in northern California, Matt continued to bloom, staying very active in a music conservatory with another gifted piano teacher, singing in the school chorus (even singing a solo at one performance) and making friends everywhere he went. Jeff and I both noticed that after only a few weeks in California, we could hardly go to any store or fast food place in our little town without someone excitedly calling “Hi Matthew!” I will always be grateful for what an easy transition he had from a fantastic situation in Texas to a very different but equally rewarding time in California. Things were far from ideal in either location, but both times were filled with blessings for him despite the hard work and continual challenges.

Matt has long been a favorite topic of mine, so I could go on and on, but perhaps this is more than enough. I hope you have enjoyed getting to know him just a little bit better. Whenever my heart is bleeding inside, I have to remind myself that even the happiest times were far from easy, and though we bloom in different ways as we grow older, yet still we bloom. I really believe that.


  1. What lovely memories and what an amazing woman you are. When you think about the wonderful people in your life – and Matt is certainly one of those – always bear in mind that you are one too!

    • Oh, thank you Jan. I really appreciate your kindness. Our photos capture the best of things and show us in a flattering light, but of course the truth always goes way deeper. Having said that, yes, I’m grateful for taking the time, as I wrote this post, to remember how very full our lives have been. I think almost all of us can get so caught up in where we are now and where we want to be in the future that we forget to be grateful for what lies behind, the peaks and the valleys and everything in between. I’m so happy you are here with us!

    • So true, Jan!

      • πŸ™‚ ❀

  2. Julia, I loved going down memory lane with you and Matt! I am so glad he pushed through that wall that others were deciding for him. I know he was able to do so much more because of the deep love of his family. Love to you both! Love and Light!πŸŽ†πŸŽ†πŸŽ†

    • Thank you Cherie! I’m glad you enjoyed our little glimpse into the past. I think of you often and hope that you and Ron are doing well, or at least OK. Keeping you in our prayers. Spring is coming and the LIGHT is increasing! Thanks for being here with us. ❀ ❀ ❀

  3. Renee West

    I love this short walk down memory lane of precious Matt..and..of course I learn more about your many talents and your heart that keeps caring and giving no matter what. Matt is such a joy and YES–we miss the both of you at church but we understand. Matt is and will always be the gift that keeps giving. My heart is full for both of you!! Love and Kisses

    • Thank you Renee. Being with you– whether in person or via email or online– always leaves me feeling stronger as well as truly understood and loved. I’m so grateful for your friendship. ❀

  4. Chris

    Hi Julia,
    Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed the photos.
    I agree that we’ve all had our hopes tempered by realities and hopes settled for life’s limitations. Even so, the “what could have beens” can’t replace the “what has been”. And I think of 1Thes. 5:16-18; rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances.

    • Thank you Chris. Such a simple yet profound passage; really, the key to so much. “What has been” is indeed something to appreciate, no matter how mixed the blessings may have been. “Through many dangers, toils and snares, we have already come…’tis grace that brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us home.” Thanks for being here!

  5. Ann

    Julia, thank you for sharing these happy memories and photos with us. Matt is an amazing person, and so are you!

    • Thank you, Ann. I so appreciate your presence here!

  6. Steve Bodiford

    Thanks for sharing this Julia…a wonderful and inspirational story.

    • Thank you, Steve. It’s always good to hear from you. Hope you and your family are doing well!

  7. Aww! It’s so good to see him again, and it was a delight to meet him when we met last fall. ❀

    • Jena, it was so funny…when I read your comment I thought, was Matt with us that day? Then I remembered, OF COURSE he was…that was the day we had just gotten the horrible confirmation (later reversed) about his impending loss of disability services. Looking back, I can remember it all clearly, but I was so caught up in our fun time together that none of the other stuff came to mind at first. I’m glad you did get to meet him. Your visit came at a perfect time, giving me something to look forward to in all the confusion and turmoil. As with your packages, the timing always seems providential. I hope you and YOUR Matthew can come to visit us and stay longer next time! ❀

      • Aww! I’m glad our friendship has been so profound on both ends. 😊

        • #MeToo — and I mean that in the best possible way πŸ˜€

  8. Good morning, Julia! Thank you for sharing all of those lovely memories and really encouraging bits of info regarding Matt, who is also a very photogenic, handsome young man!
    I wanted to stand up and cheer about his piano accomplishments, and typing!
    God bless his teachers, and God bless you for all of your excellent follow-through, and your persistence in believing in Matt’s abilities to overcome so much!

    • Thank you Susan. I was going through some old papers recently– something I seem to spend hours doing, lately, figuring out what to throw away– and came across one of his guild audition score sheets. I had forgotten so much about those San Antonio years. In some ways, more was packed into our three years there than in any other place we have lived, yet because I was working outside the home, I took relatively few pictures and wrote much less than in other phases of our lives. So there are fewer tangible reminders. The schools in Texas– for both Drew and Matt– were hands down better than those anywhere we ever lived. Matt had some of the best teachers there that he ever had. Also one of the worst, but thank goodness that in the schools, as in life, the “good guys” almost always outnumber the bad ones. I so appreciate your friendship– thank you for caring about us! ❀

  9. Thanks for sharing this Julia! I was not in touch much during many of those years. As time passes, your efforts with Matt will grow to be more rewarding in your soul. As always, your photos are excellent and provide for wonderful memories. Most of us wish we had better documentation of our past. Here’s to hoping your family’s future is bright and filled with love.

    • Hi Don, it’s great to hear from you! I appreciate your kind words about the photos. I’ve taken no end of kidding (and sometimes complaining) about my compulsive picture-taking over the years, so it’s always good to think that anybody enjoys seeing them. I think of you and your family often, always fondly and with gratitude!

  10. Jack

    What a beautiful story to the strength of the child, the mother, father and brother! I’m of the notion that we’re all born with our own set of challenges, physical or otherwise. As my pastor told me many years ago, “we’ve all got issues…and if you don’t think you have any issues, then that’s your issue.” He looks like one joyful guy to me!

    • Jack, Matt really is a joyful guy. Getting older, and losing his Daddy (and losing frequent contact with his brother) have put something of a dent in that spirit, but on his best days, or really at the slightest excuse, his relentless love of life will shine forth again. Your pastor is right, 100%. Sometimes those who keep things the most polished on the surface have the deepest scars and festering wounds inside. Nobody’s life is trouble-free, no matter how things may appear.

  11. Sheila

    Julia, it’s the smile that gets to my heart every time. πŸ’› it was so nice that Matt agreed to let you share a glimpse of his life, challenges and accomplishments. 🎹 Thank you, Matt! I loved the photos of such a favorite young man! πŸ’™ Our community lost a dear friend on Monday (due to flu) and we’re just devastated that a 54 year old would succumb to such. She was so outgoing, inspired everyone she met, lived life to the fullest, and loved LIFE! πŸ’” I think of you and Matt everyday, many times actually, and hope you’re doing well. Can Spring be far away?

    • Sheila, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. These sudden and unexpected bereavements are especially difficult. The flu this year has been horrible, hasn’t it? I am thankful that Matt and I have (thus far) been spared. Matt did not get his flu shot this year– we just didn’t get around to it– and I did, by coincidence, since I usually never get them, but happened to be at the base hospital for routine appointments and just decided to go on and get it while I was there. But I’ve heard that the flu shots are hit-or-miss and may not always protect against the disease, so that’s why I generally don’t prioritize getting them. But a 54-year-old healthy woman doesn’t seem to be “high risk” so maybe I should re-think my disregard of the shots from here on in. How sad that such a vivacious person was taken from you. The world needs more such people.

      Matt and I are doing OK. I am really enjoying this warm weather…I am reminding myself that we’ll likely have more cold before it’s truly spring, but I love seeing the signs! I don’t think it will be long now. Hope you have a wonderful week! πŸ™‚

  12. Julia,
    Thank you for sharing Matt’s story. One that is inspiring from a mom who inspires.
    I, like Matt, played the piano as well. It not only fulfilled a desire but provided strengthening exercise for polio weakened hands. I, too, know too well that “the happiest times were far from easy.”

    • Thank you, Alan. I think part of the reward of hard work is that what we strive for is so much more satisfying than what comes easily to us. Even if we achieve only moderate or temporary success, it’s memorable. I hope things are starting to warm up in “the quiet corner.” We have had such warm days this week, even when it has been rainy. Once day it got into the 80’s and I actually got hot working outside. Being outdoors and the lengthening of daylight hours does wonders for my mood.

      • Well, weather is better, but not quite 80’s yet. Yes, Spring does raise the spirit.

        • Yes, that 80 degree day was an outlier here, too. It was around 60 today, which is a step in the right direction. πŸ™‚

  13. Julia, I’m so glad you shared these pics and stories. I recognize the mama bear behind your darling boys. You’ve worked tirelessly to bring Matt to the place he is today.

    Do you know the song by Mike and the Mechanics called “In the Living Years”? For some reason this lyric: “…and if you don’t give up and don’t give in, you may just be okay.”

    So don’t yield to the fortunes
    You sometimes see as fate
    It may have a new perspective
    On a different day
    And if you don’t give up, and don’t give in
    You may just be okay

    The song is sad and poignant but beautiful. I’ll find a version on YouTube to post after this comment.

    Arms around you both.

    Live version at the Isle of Wight : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io8bGYfu4ic

    • Thanks, Alys. I really like that song and I enjoyed hearing it again. I’m mostly OK, still taking it one day at a time…

      • I’m sure it’s so hard, Julia. I received your lovely card between trips (my third since January). I hope to respond in kind when I’m home. Hugs

        • Oh good, I’m glad it came before you left. I was thinking this was certainly a travel-filled year for you. I don’t think even I would want to have taken THREE trips since January. I used to be a travel enthusiast, but I’m becoming quite the home body as I age. Hope you have smooth travels and many wonderful discoveries.

          • Hi Julia. I’m back in San Jose with my feet on the ground for awhile now. The three trips were all so unique and equally wonderful, but I too love home. It’s finding the balance I think.

            • Yes, we are fortunate to be able to travel, and then come home to familiar surroundings custom-created for our personal needs and comforts. You will have many lovely memories to recall as you “rest up” (insofar as one can ever rest at home, with tasks calling) and get back into the routine. Welcome home! πŸ™‚ ❀

              • Thank you, Julia. Let me know if you have time for a phone call. xo

                • Will do. What time of the day is your best time for phone calls?

                  • Julia, it varies, but generally a Monday or Wednesday morning around 8 my time works well. Late afternoon (my 4 and your 7) also works.

                    • Thanks Alys. I’m hoping I can call next week. I’ll try to send you a quick email to let you know when I plan to call.

                    • Sounds good, Julia.

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