Our guest this week is Andy McCall of Greenville, TN. Andy is a career teacher and coach who has three children, including daughter, Penelope, who, sadly, passed away at age two, due to severe special needs and cancer. Andy kept a blog during Penelope’s life, which he turned into a book entitled, Pigtails & Steel, which is available on Amazon.
His experience has led to his dedication as a volunteer at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital as well as with Dads of Steele, a charity that supports dads who have lost a child.
Andy credits his family, his faith and The League of Ordinary Men, a local book club for helping him persevere the challenges he and his family has endured.
We’ll hear the story of Andy’s life, the highs and the lows, on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast.
Find out about Dads of Steel at: https://dadsofsteele.org
Learn about St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital at: https://www.stjude.org
To purchase Andy’s Book Pigtails & Steel go to: https://www.amazon.com/Pigtails-Steel-Andy-McCall/dp/197918528X
Tom Couch: Special, thanks to horizon therapeutics for sponsoring today’s special father’s network. Dad to dad podcast, horizon therapeutics believes that science and compassion must work together to transform lives. That’s why they work tirelessly to research, develop and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases.
Discover more about horizon therapeutics, mission to boldly change the lives of the patients and communities at horizontherapeutics.com.
Andy Mccall: My dad was my everything. He was always there for me and he was my biggest fan and everything that I did, I can’t think of a time that he wasn’t there, that he wasn’t present.
And, you know, I’m a product of my raising. I’ve been able to get through the things in my life. Because of him.
Tom Couch: That’s our guests this week. Andy McCall. Andy is a career teacher and coach who has three children, including a daughter who sad to say passed away at age two, due to severe special needs and cancer.
Andy’s written a book about his life called pigtails and steel, and it’s available now on. But we’ll hear the story of Andy’s life, the highs and the lows all on this special father’s network, dad to dad podcast. Here’s your host, David. Hi,
David Hirsch: and thanks for listening to the dad to dad podcast, fathers, mentoring, fathers of children with special needs presented by the special father’s number.
Tom Couch: the special father’s network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process. New fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support dads, to find out more, go to 21st century dads.org.
David Hirsch: And if your dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com groups and search dad to death.
Tom Couch: And now let’s listen to this conversation. Between Andy McCall and David Hirsch,
David Hirsch: thrilled to be talking today with Andy McCall of Greenville, Tennessee. Who’s a fifth grade teacher and a father of three, including daughter who passed away at two due to severe special needs in cancer. Andy, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for this special father’s network.
Andy Mccall: Uh, I’m honored to be here.
This is, this is, this is definitely some powerful things. It’s all about our stories.
David Hirsch: You and your wife, Ellen have been married for eight years and are the proud parents of three two-year-old twins, scout, Maisie, and older sister Penelope who had severe, special needs as well as cancer who sadly passed away just before her second birthday.
Let’s start with some background. Tell me, where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Andy Mccall: Well, I was born and raised in Greenville, Tennessee, small town in Northeast, Tennessee, and really close to all my family and being, being an only child in a small town, you know, definitely. Very close to my family and my mom and dad, for sure who just lived like a mile down the road, so that small town.
David Hirsch: So out of curiosity, what does your dad do for a living?
Andy Mccall: My dad was a teacher, the beginning of his career and he ended up ending his career selling school buses. So he was at school and then sold school buses and he just recently retired.
David Hirsch: Okay. And how would you characterize or describe your relationship with your dad?
Andy Mccall: My dad was my everything. He was always there for me. And he was my biggest fan and everything that I did, I can’t think of a time that he wasn’t there, that he wasn’t present. And, you know, I’m a product of my raising. I’ve been able to get through the things in my life because of him.
David Hirsch: That’s a very strong testimonial.
Thanks for sharing. I’m sorta curious to know when you think about your dad, if there’s, uh, an important takeaway or two that come to mind, something that resonates with you, something that you’ve tried to emulate as a dad yourself.
Andy Mccall: For me, it’s always, he always put family first. It was always about us, but it was about my mom and I, since I was an only child and everything he did was out of love and love for us and wanted everything that if we wanted it, he did everything he could to get us that, or, you know, provide for us.
And I think being that provider and just showing me, you know, what it means to put your family first. That, that always has stuck with me. Excellent.
David Hirsch: Um, so what I remember is that, uh, you went to Marshall college, you played football. I don’t remember what you majored in. And, um, I was wondering, where did your career take you?
Andy Mccall: Yeah, it was Mars hill college. A lot of people get that. A lot of people get it. Marshall and Morris hill mixed up. That we were a little bit smaller than Marshall. So yeah, it was Mars hill college, which is now Mars hill university. So yeah, I graduated with a degree in elementary education being a male in elementary education.
I was usually the only male in my class. I just felt natural in that environment with kids and working with kids. It luckily brought me back to the same school that I went to elementary school with. So I graduated from our sale. I came back here to Greenville was lucky enough to get a job and actually teach in the same classroom that I was in when I was in elementary school and work for the same principal that I had while I was in elementary school.
So thankful, uh, acted around it. Turned it on my
David Hirsch: homework now that’s fabulous. Um, it must’ve felt a little bit like deja VU.
Andy Mccall: It, it was it’s like I got to sit in the teacher’s chair, you know, I got to see it from a different angle there it was, but it was been great. Started out in fifth grade and now being a second grade teacher and still in the same school has been been amazing.
So it’s being able to make an impact on the place that made an impact on you. Uh, really means a lot.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. And from what I remember, or you’ve done some coaching as well.
Andy Mccall: Yeah. 12 years as a high school coach at Greenville high school. Um, we had some really great teams, uh, fortunate enough to win four state championships in that short time and runner up for one, but more importantly, getting to see there in those 12 years.
All these young men grow up and be a part of their lives and seeing them graduate high school, graduate college careers, being invited to their weddings. That’s the good stuff, right there is being able to be a part of their lives and know that I had some, you know, some meaning in their life beyond maybe a football player too.
Or maybe if you few sprints, I had to make them do it.
David Hirsch: Well, speaking of, uh, weddings, I’m sort of curious now, how did you.
Andy Mccall: Ellen. And I met at the most unlikely place in the world. Our school system does a field day. So elementary school field day, when all the elementary schools come together and, you know, you do tug of war and races and things like that.
So imagine a hot sweaty afternoon with thousands of elementary school kids. Uh, I was, you know, the teacher one school, she was actually a school nurse and another one and through one of my best friends, um, that was at her school. We met, started talking and. This sort of went from there, not your, uh, most romantic place to me, but it was, it’ll always be special to us for sure.
David Hirsch: awesome. Thanks for sharing. Well, let’s switch gears and talk about special needs first on a personal level, and then I’ll be
Andy Mccall: so, uh, Penelope had many different, special needs. Um, most of them were neurological. She, uh, had polymicrobial diarrhea, which caused seizures and infantile spasm. Well, we came to find out and what we’ve pretty, pretty sure narrowed down, uh, was tensile Gideon syndrome.
And, you know, we, we didn’t get that final exact diagnosis because she did pass away, um, very quickly during all that. But you know, all signs pointed to that, which comes along with a lot of neurological and muscular, um, disabilities.
David Hirsch: Okay. So at what age was that?
Andy Mccall: Well, we found out her spasms came out between six and eight months and, you know, w we didn’t really know what they were.
And then we we’ve got the infantile spasms diagnosis early on, which after, you know, all special needs dads know you have so many doctor’s appointments and scans, and that’s where we went with them with the poly mockers area, from there on.
David Hirsch: Okay. What was your first reaction? If you can remember way back when
Andy Mccall: the world stopped?
When I heard it, I remember exactly where I was standing in that doctor’s office and the words they just kept repeating in my head. And I didn’t know, I didn’t know exactly what it was. I didn’t understand it, but from her tone, from her. Way of saying it. I knew it was bad and I don’t know how I handle it.
I don’t know if it was good, bad or what I looked like, but I just remember everything. It’s almost like everything stopped for that moment when I heard that. So it
David Hirsch: took a while to digest what was going on. And from there, how did things proceed
Andy Mccall: from there? It was a lot of learning very fast because you know, being a, a teacher, a football coach, I didn’t have a lot of medical background.
Thankfully, you know, Ellen had that medical background and got us through a lot of that and she helped it like many nurses. She helped it make sense to me. And then I did a lot of studying and we went from there. You know, it was a lot of, a lot of medications, a lot of scans, a lot of watching, a lot of sleepless nights and.
We made that journey all the way through pharmaceuticals to getting her off pharmaceuticals and using, um, CBD or for treating her seizures and going that route. It was a whirlwind. But then again, it seemed like it went on forever too, because it was, you were always on watch and on-call for what was going on.
David Hirsch: Was there some meaningful advice that you got that helped you navigate the situation either initially or part way through? I
Andy Mccall: think it was from some other families that were going through with special needs and seizures, and it was a lot of trust. Trust was a big thing. It was, you know, trust your instincts and trust your doctors and trust.
Because we don’t have control in these times. That’s a lot of things as a dad, you’re supposed to have control during these. And when you don’t have control you question everything. And I think somebody, one time told me, you know, you might not have control, but you have the control to trust what you think is right.
And you make those decisions and you, you stay in balm for your family.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I’ve heard it often said that. You have to be your child’s best advocate. And you know, you want to take all the information in from whatever sources, doctors, nurses, PTs, OTs, STS, uh, internet, you know, wherever, but you have to trust your gut, right.
To do the best thing for your child. And when things just aren’t right. It just doesn’t feel like, uh, you’re where you want to be, need to be or should be, you know, it’s not inappropriate. Uh, certainly these days to get a second or third opinion and just try to figure out what’s going to work. Right. Cause it’s usually not one thing.
Andy Mccall: Definitely. Definitely. And we, that was a big deal for us. And especially going from pharmaceuticals to CBD to treat her seizures. That was one of those. Family decisions that we just had to trust was right. And try to give back. We all do try to give our children the best quality of life we can.
David Hirsch: So not to focus on the negative, but just to be real.
Uh, what were some of the bigger challenges that you and Ellen faced
Andy Mccall: as parents? It was the unknown. It was, we didn’t know what was coming next, or you have all those questions. Is she going to be able to do this, you know, when you get those diagnosis and I mean, like you said, being real, you know, your dreams are shattered a little bit.
You have all these dreams of what you want to happen and your new normal, your new reality is these things aren’t going to happen. And that was hard for, for me. Because I didn’t understand all the medical at first, so I didn’t understand what was going on. So I had to educate myself. And once we got past that, you know, it was just going from a parent to a caregiver in some ways you’re always, you’re constantly carrying, you’re constantly dealing with meds and feedings and changing this and that.
And like you say, going to every specialist in the world that she didn’t even know existed at that time. And it was just that constant that I think we never felt like we could just sit back and enjoy Penelope and being that her parents, you know, and being her dad. And once we realized that and talked about that and settled down a little bit, we did that and we, you know, we lived her life and enjoyed every second of it, but that definitely at the first, that was, that was hard.
David Hirsch: thanks for sharing. Um, usually when I ask about turning points, it’s a turning point for the positive, but I know that one of the turning points that an LPN Conard you and Ellen encountered was her cancer diagnosis. And I’m wondering how that transpired and how did things go from there?
Andy Mccall: You know, we, we always said that.
Penelope, never Penelope never got a common cold or anything, but if it was special or something, that that’s what she got. And, you know, sadly, like you said, the turning point was cancer and we woke up one day, uh, it was a Saturday morning and we noticed that her legs weren’t working and she, her legs were flacid and yeah.
You know, we didn’t know if it was the multitude of, of diagnosis. Was it another UTI was another something that she had a seizure in, something go numb, you know, all these things were going through our head. And so we go to the doctor, we go to all over local children’s hospital, get her checked out. They really couldn’t find anything the first day or so.
And I went back to school on that Monday because I knew I had to go to work and. That’s when we found out and they came in that she had a tumor in her brain at the base base for brainstem, and that was going down and metastasizing down her spinal column cut, which has caused her lower body paralysis.
And what we came to find out was it was a super aggressive brain tumor, and it was ended up being a stage four megillah epithelium MoMA. And like I said, it was metastasizing down her spinal column. And creating little tumors throughout her body.
David Hirsch: So was that actually what, uh, took her life at the end
Andy Mccall: or I was, it was like I said, it was a very aggressive and from the time that we were at our local children’s hospital and even flew to Memphis where we were at Labon or hospital, I am at St.
Jude. It had already grown in the weeks’ time. And that’s when we found out. We didn’t have many options left and there weren’t many or many treatment options. So that, like I said, you know, Penelope never could do anything half. It was, it was a, one of the most aggressive ones that I had ever read about or
David Hirsch: seen.
Yeah. Well, that’s the sad reality is that, uh, it shortened her life dramatically. And I don’t even know if there is a silver lining other than maybe she didn’t stop. For an extended period of time. But, uh, it sounds sad to say that I apologize if I’ve offended you by saying that, but, you know, um, it seemed very abrupt.
That’s my observation.
Andy Mccall: It was, and, and definitely, definitely didn’t, you know, it, we didn’t expect that at all. You know, I went back to work when we got the news, you know, that’s not what we expected by any means, but. In her short life and having to deal with things that she did, you know, I am glad that she didn’t have to fight a long cancer battle because, you know, I don’t know her little body could have done that because she was fighting every day.
And you know, not that you, you want it to be quick, but if it is something as severe as a stage four cancer, you know, I’m honored and blessed to be her dad for the time we did have, but I’m also glad that she didn’t suffer for those for that long.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing. I’m sort of curious to know what impact Penelope his situation had on your marriage or maybe the rest of your family.
Right. You know, your extended family.
Andy Mccall: It definitely brought us closer, which isn’t sadly, which isn’t what happens with a lot of families. And, you know, being a special needs father to begin with that can already be hard and strain on a marriage. Now you add being bereaved parents to the mix, and that creates a whole nother world of difficulties, Ellen.
And I, she says too, you know, we’re sort of proud of how we got through it and how we got through it together and how. Our family handled it. You know, everybody handles grief differently or by handled situations differently. But as a family, Penelope brought us all together and continues to help us fight the good fight as we say, sometimes for whatever it is, whether it be for St Jude or epilepsy awareness, or even just, you know, helping out families that need it because we knew we know what it’s like.
To be in that situation. So we had that empathy for those families that are going through it. And I think we all see it through a different lens now.
David Hirsch: So I’m thinking about supporting organizations that, uh, you or your family have relied on either for Penelope directly or for your family overall. And I’m wondering. Which groups come to mind,
Andy Mccall: you know, the first one’s definitely St. Jude, you, you never want to have to go to a place like St. Jude, cause you don’t want that to be part of your, your life or your child’s life, but you’re sure, glad that a place like that exists.
You know, I, I, my only part that I knew about were the commercials or giving, you know, a dollar here and there and, but to actually receive the care, not to ever receive a bill and to. Work with some of the best doctors and nurses and staff that are out there firsthand, completely changed my whole outlook on things.
And that’s why I worked for him now, uh, as a volunteer and as a parent educator and a member of the quality law steering council with what we do and they, they were forever be part of the McCall family and Penelope.
David Hirsch: Fabulous. Um, are there any other organizations that, uh, played an instrumental role or groups?
Andy Mccall: No, sort of the full circle. Um, Carrie’s heart foundation, which is a local to us. They are a foundation based on, um, parents set it up for their little girl and they lost their little girl and they have helped thousands of families with. Everything from financial needs to transportation, to carrying bags, to whatever, for people that were in the hospital.
And when we were in the hospital, we actually were sitting there one day and received at one of these carrying bags. They just had some things for parents. It really, it touched me that there was somebody out there that was thinking about the families along with the child. And the more we got to look at the look through what they were doing.
You know, we looked them up on their website and they’re just there to help people. There’s some great people that are there to help, however they can for families in the, you know, they in the hospital and being a special needs, parents, you know, having a medically fragile child, you spend a lot of time in the hospital, which causes a lot of problems.
Medically financially situationally. And they have been there to help families, you know, for many years and full circle with that is now we’ve been able to help them and donate with them. And which brings me to my book club. And we are my men’s book club just recently put together a men’s book basket for their online auction to help raise funds for them so they can continue to help families.
And most people just heard men’s book club and said, yeah, that’s not more. And by that, my men’s book club, the league of ordinary men, um, they have been more instrumental than I know in helping me get through things. And we’re just an eclectic group of lack of mounted, man, that wanted more out of life. We help each other.
We hold each other accountable, but we help each other be better fathers and husbands and men, and try to be great role models in the community. You know, we’re like the name says we’re just ordinary men. Uh, we’re teachers, lawyers, um, construction workers, you know, just normal man. They’re just trying to be better.
And when you look at us, if you ever look us up the league of ordinary men, We have to prove to people sometimes that yes, we actually do read. Yes, we’re actually group, you know, a lot of them like, ah, they’ve helped me with my grief journey and raising money for St. Jude and Penelope memory, um, working with local schools and literacy campaigns and just trying to be role models for the community.
So they have definitely helped us out more than anything.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well, it sounds like a real blessing. Uh, they have been to you and it sounds like you are to one another. And with all due respect, I think you need to change the name of the group to illegal of extraordinary men, because that’s actually what you are.
I know that it sounds humbler to call yourselves a hard dairy man. And, uh, I think you do have a couple of members of as easy tops in your group.
Andy Mccall: For sure for sure. They, uh, that some pictures you’ll see. And that’s funny, you mentioned that with, uh, with their long beards, they actually just got together and said, you know what, we’re going to cut our beards and raise some money for St.
Jude and yeah. Uh, we set a small goal and they blew that out of the water. No raised thousands of dollars for St. Jude just to cut their beards and, you know, being in the south, that’s a big thing, you know, got to having your, having your beard there. So for them to do that in Penelope, his memory just shows you, you know, what men getting together can, can accomplish and achieve, you know, together.
David Hirsch: Fabulous. Well, thanks again for sharing. You made passing reference earlier to CBD, and I’m wondering if that’s played a, an important role or
Andy Mccall: not really. No, it definitely has. And we were part of the families that fall off the, uh, CBD legalization bill in Tennessee, along with, um, one very special family that we have another special needs family here in town.
Um, and you know, it brought awareness to what we go through every day. And. You know, the CBD community that we were fighting for was getting CBD as an option for kids, uh, dealing with a seizures and infantile spasms and, and all these, and just having the option. And it connected us with many special needs families, um, throughout Tennessee and really throughout the United States.
And that’s always been special to us that we could have been part of that, um, with our best friends. Logan and Stacy and their little girl, Josie, and being able to help our families, you know, cause nobody chooses this challenge and nobody chooses this life that we’ve lived. But it’s how we use that challenge, I think is a special needs family, a special needs dad.
And now me as a bereaved dad, that’s what makes us or breaks. You know, we never, we never let Pinella B’s diagnosis be her death. And throughout things like CBD and St. Jude and her legacy with the book club and being able to do things with Carrie’s heart foundation and even just in our community, being able to continue that legacy, you know, that’s what defines us.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I think it’s fabulous. Thanks again for sharing. So let’s switch gears and talk about a couple of other things. Um, You were blogging for a certain period of time. And that turns out to be a self-published book, entitled pigtails and steel. Uh, so what’s the backstory on that.
Andy Mccall: So pigtails and steel came from things that you know, are associated with Penelope pigtails were my favorite thing that Ellen put her hair up.
I never could do it. They were either sideways, lopsided. Oh, they look terrible. Um, but that was the best thing I, you know, seeing Penelope and pigtails was just melted my heart and you know, it, every time I saw her in pink tails, it made me forget there for a second that she had special needs or had all these bad things.
And I just saw her for who she was. And I picked stale because. That’s what, you know, we, as dads are supposed to be, we’re supposed to be that foundation and that support for our children and our families, our spouses, whoever. So pigtails and steel just sort of came together. And in one of those riding moments that I had.
David Hirsch: So from what I remember is that, uh, you started doing this just to get the thoughts out of your mind, right. Putting them in a blog and you posted them. And did you have a following or was it for the benefit of other family members that you were sharing updates again? How did it all transpire?
Andy Mccall: So I had to find a way to get all these thoughts out of my head.
And as we started with, when we got to meet all of these cancer diagnosis and, you know, I had everything in my head and I had to find a way to get it out. So I’ve been reading and I’d seen people post blogs, and I really didn’t know much about it, but I knew that after the first time that I topped that paragraph out, how much better I felt just getting it out.
And I made a few, I just created a free one and sort of wrote them and I didn’t share them with anything. And. Ellen and I talked about it and she goes, you should share it and just, just share it to Facebook. Maybe somebody will read it and maybe, you know, somebody will know what we’re going through. And it sort of went like wildfire from there.
People were reading my thoughts and where I wasn’t really good at the first and communicating how I felt. You know, a lot of people didn’t know how to talk to me about things and or even what I was thinking about this whole situation. I put it out there and just put my thoughts at the time. And it only helped me.
It helped my family. It helped Ellen, it helped some other people going through this. And like I said, I just, I kept going until about a year after the male will be dead. And just as something happened and I needed to deal with. I just typed it out. And sometimes that was at one o’clock in the morning, eight o’clock in the morning, middle of the day.
It just, when it happened, it happened. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Well, I really enjoyed reading the book, uh, pigtails and steel. And from what I remember. You have not re-read these right? I have not one from your blog into the book. Self-published and you’re not looking back, which I admire the discipline that goes along with that.
Um, I suspect that maybe months, years, whenever down the road, it might be additionally therapeutic for you to go back and see where you were. Right. Just to see. Uh, how far you’ve come, uh, since those days. And if you’ll allow me, um, there’s a few excerpts I’d like to read and just to get your additional thoughts, I don’t know that it’s important, but page 78 you wrote a father is supposed to protect his daughter.
And I can’t do that. I’ve not failed at it. I just can’t feeling helpless is what hurts them.
Andy Mccall: It was because when you become a dad, that’s your first instinct is this is my little girl and I’m going to protect her and I’m going to do everything that I can. And going, going back to my dad, you know, you, your family’s first.
And that was the hardest thing I think for me to deal with as a special needs, dad, is that with a child with cancer, And now where I am in my grief journey is I still struggle with it a little bit is I didn’t have control and I couldn’t protect her, but that’s part of my journey is learning to accept that and work with that.
And that’s why I’m here, you know, honored to be here and talk about our story that you know, other dads, I know we’re feeling it. We all feel. But being able to talk about it and surrounding yourself with other men or other families that understand it, that gives you some power back and gives you some of that control back that we lose in these situations.
David Hirsch: Uh, let’s uh, talk about dads of steel. How’d you get involved with that group? What is that group and who do they serve
Andy Mccall: anyway? So that was, uh, it was just by chance. Uh, I think it was on Instagram or Facebook. I had followed them. I think it was through pigtails, a steal, and I saw my dad’s a steel searching one day and, you know, I saw they were a, just a group of men.
Highlighting men and being good fathers. And then I read into the story that they’ve still had lost his dollar. And I can’t remember if I messaged him or he messaged me and we just sort of connected, you know, we had that, we were in dads who lost a daughter and we connected instantly and it’s like, we knew each other forever.
And. It’s sort of gone from there. And now we, um, work with them and I’m part of a little Sunday morning bereaved ag group that we all meet and talk and try to help each other through this life that we live now.
David Hirsch: So how many, um, men are actually involved in dad’s a steal?
Andy Mccall: Well, the, the dads is still community is worldwide and on Instagram and Facebook, you know, you look at it and they’re. People from everywhere. And even it’s based out of Chicago, but like I said, I’m in Tennessee and our grief group, you know, we have five to seven men that meet regularly and even one from the Netherlands, you know, and he is, Robert is amazing.
So Robert, if you’re listening, I appreciate you. And, uh, so it, you know, we, we feel like we’re a small community and, and nobody, nobody chooses to be part of this group, especially the grief side of dads of steel. But we are doing some, some various powerful work and getting ready to do some, some even more powerful work together.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you again for sharing. So I’m sort of curious to know what role has spirituality played?
Andy Mccall: Spirituality was a hard one. Um, I remember holding Penelope during some of her seizures and as she’s having a seizures. Crying out and whether it was prayer or frustration saying, just give it to me.
I’ll take the seizures, take them away from her. And you know, you go through those, the bargaining and the dismissal of all faith whatsoever, and then you gain faith and then you lean on faith and then you lose it again. And sometimes that’s before breakfast and it’s a journey. You, you don’t want to experience any of that.
By any means, but if spirituality plays a role for you, which, you know, that’s where I was grounded in and, you know, part of my whole life, some part of my upbringing, you know, it definitely helped get me through. And it definitely molded me into the man. I am today with how I believe, how I, what I believe and what I think of when I see another dad going through this and maybe how I can hear.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for sharing and I really appreciate your transparency and authenticity. It’s not going to be a good way about, I think it’s one of those things that has to be experienced and I’m not speaking from experience. I’m just saying my observation is that you’ve got to go through the baptism by fire, if you will, uh, to really be able to put it all in perspective.
So I’m thinking about advice now, and I’m wondering if there’s any advice you can share. Dad who are either raising a child with special needs or going through the grieving process of losing
Andy Mccall: the child.
The biggest thing that has helped me is this communication. It’s finding a group. And for me, it was a group of men like the special fathers and that work. And this dad did that podcast and the dads of steel and St. Jude in my men’s book club. It was, it was finding those outlets and surrounding yourself with people that understand you or people that want to understand you and you can’t do this alone, you can’t walk the life of a special needs father alone.
You definitely can’t walk the life of being a bereaved father alone. There’s no way tried it. And if you say in my book, a couple of times that leads you down. Some roads that there, there is no end. There is no lot on that path. And it’s hard for us. It’s hard for men to talk about our feelings or even to open up or even to say, okay, I’m going to join this.
Dad’s a steel grief group. You know, that was a big step. And that was a big step for me. And I’m one that at St. Jude talks about this all the time, it’s apparent edge. But once you take that step and you feel that weight lift off of your shoulders, because these other men understand you and have these same feelings and you start to feel normal because we all know what goes through our heads.
We all know those thoughts and feelings about not being able to protect our child, or how are we even going to pay the bills this month? Or, you know, I don’t even know what this next diagnosis is or. You know, we think we’re the only ones having them, but we’re not. And the sooner we realize that, and the sooner we put ourselves out there, that’s when this new normal that we have encountered starts become a little wider and we can heal and we can navigate it.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Very well said. Thank you. I’m sort of curious to know why is it that you’ve agreed to be a mentor father as part of the special father’s network?
Andy Mccall: I see the power in it. I see the power in men coming together to help each other and to become whether it’s a better father or just to make it a better situation.
I see the need. I see the power in what we’re doing here. And, you know, just the short time that I have been part of the dads of steel grapefruit, but the special father’s network and saying everything that comes together when we all come together and talk about this, my only wish was I was here sooner.
That wasn’t that’s my only wish is I wish I was here. Yeah. Well,
David Hirsch: thank you again. We’re thrilled to have you. Well, let’s give a special shout out to David steel, as well as Don Ranieri at dads of steel for helping connect them.
Andy Mccall: Definitely. They are, they are two amazing men that they make me better. They’re they’re great men and I’m honored to know them and work with them.
And can’t wait to see where we take all of it.
David Hirsch: Well from your lips to God’s ears, as my grandmother used to say, thank you. Is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Andy Mccall: No, like I said, I’m just honored to be here and I hope that part of my story, you know, whether it’s from this or maybe if somebody picks up my book or, you know, any part of our stories that helps you or.
Is, that’s what we’re here for. Like I said to me, you can’t do this alone. You have to do this together. And that’s what we’re all here for.
David Hirsch: Andy. Thank you for your time. In many insights as reminder, Andy is just one of the dads. Who’s part of the special father’s network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs.
If you’d like to be a mentor father or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation of your own, please go to 21st century dads. Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the special father’s network, dad to dad podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did, as you probably know.
The 21st century dads foundation is a 5 0 1 C3, not for profit organization, which means we need your help to keep our content free. To all concerned, please consider making a textbook contribution. I would really appreciate your support. Thanks again,
Andy Mccall: sir. Thank you.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the dad to dad podcast presented by the special father’s network.
The special father’s network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process. New fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for fathers to support fathers, go to 21st century dads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help for we’d like to offer. We would be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com groups and search dad to dad. Also, please be sure to register for the special father’s network. Bi-week the zoom calls held on the first and third Tuesdays of every month.
Lastly, we’re always looking to share interesting stories. If you’d like to share your story or no of a compelling story, please send an email to David at 20% tree dads.
Tom Couch: the dad to dad podcast was produced by couch audio for the special father’s network. Thanks again to horizon therapeutics who believe that science and compassion must work together to transform lives.
That’s why they work tirelessly, lead to research, develop and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about horizon therapeutics at horizontherapeutics.com.