Dad to Dad 58 – Bob Mendez’ son Robert was born with no arms and no legs and is a varsity high school football coach.
Bob Mendez: At this time, I just want to introduce to you somebody that I think can really help turn this program around a coach that I hired because I was impressed with his knowledge of the game. His passion is a coach blew me away. New jolt, Rob Mendez.
Tom Couch: Today, we’re going to hear the story of a boy who was born with no arms or legs.
And who went on to become an inspiring and successful high school football coach.
Bob Mendez: In the back of my mind, I’m asking him why, why my son less than 100 born like him in the world. What am I going to do with him this morning?
Tom Couch: That’s Bob Mendez. He’s coach Mendez, his dad and he’s David Hirsch’s guest on this dad to dad podcast.
Here’s our host David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the dad to dad, podcast, fathers, mentoring, fathers of children. Special needs presented by the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network as 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, to find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if your dad looking for help for we’d 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 dad.
Tom Couch: So let’s listen now as special father Bob Mendez talks with dad to dad hosts David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with my friend, Bob Mendez of San Jose, California, a father of three, and a retired respiratory therapist. Bob, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for this Special Fathers Network.
Bob Mendez: Oh, you’re welcome.
David Hirsch: You and your wife chose? He had been married for 36 years and are the proud parents of three children, Jackie 33, Maddie 26 and Robert 30, who was born without arms or legs.
Well, let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Bob Mendez: Oh God. I was born in Salinas, Salinas, California. It’s about maybe an hour South of where I’m at now. And, um, I moved up to this area about 18 years old and never went back. I, uh, grew up, um, two siblings, both females, sister older, and a sister younger.
My father, uh, worked day and night for as long as I can remember. Even after he retired, he. Worked out probably 36 to 40 a week. And my mother worked part time here and there throughout my childhood.
David Hirsch: So you grew up in Northern California and you still live in Northern California and you have two sisters, an older sister and a younger sister.
Bob Mendez: That’s correct.
David Hirsch: What does your dad do for a living?
Bob Mendez: He was a custodian for a school district and then he had his own business going also. So needless to say he was a pretty busy guy. I couldn’t hardly wait. For, um, the weekends. So I would work with them and that’s the time I spent with him. Um, working as time went on, I got older was less thrilled to go 13 years old.
Then I didn’t want to go after that.
David Hirsch: My recollection was, uh, your dad did not have a high level of education,
Bob Mendez: correct? His father, uh, pulled him out of school in sixth grade and made him work in the field.
David Hirsch: Oh my,
Bob Mendez: yeah. That’s what he did.
David Hirsch: How would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Bob Mendez: You know, it was, it was good, but it just wasn’t as frequent, I guess, you know, you want to see your father more, but he just worked all the time.
Seemed like, you know, you did it for us, but he worked quite a bit. So, I mean, I can remember one time we went on vacation as a family and that was to Disneyland and he just couldn’t get away.
David Hirsch: So it’s not very obvious, just from what you mentioned about your dad, that he had a tremendous work ethic. That was a high priority for him.
Bob Mendez: It was a, that’s an important
David Hirsch: lesson to take away from anybody. I’m wondering if there was any advice you received or perhaps an important lesson or two from your dad?
Bob Mendez: Um, yeah, I mean, at one point I was following in his footsteps with work. I mean, I had three jobs at the age of 16 and, um, I think I brought that up with him at one point and he said, you know, do, do what you gotta do, but make time for, for social living too.
And I did that. I let go of one of the jobs and that was a 16. And you know, I think he, I think he had his work habits because of him being pulled out so young. Maybe I’m not sure. And he’s just trained that way so young, but he never stopped. He worked. I think he knew it was there anyways. And he just passed away a couple of years ago, um, in January of, uh, 17.
Okay. Well, I’m
David Hirsch: sorry to hear that he passed. So I’m wondering if there’s any other father figures that might’ve played an influential role in your life,
Bob Mendez: you know, believe it or not off the top of my head. I really can’t think of anyone else. I mean, I strongly believe that a father figure is as important as it gets when it comes to the kids.
And that might’ve been the reason for me getting in trouble when I was young.
David Hirsch: Well, let’s go down that path. If you’re comfortable talking about it. He had mentioned that, uh, you know, you had a lot of time to do things on your own and maybe made some decisions in the short run. Did you look back and say, Oh geez, what was I thinking about?
What was that all about? If you could share that,
Bob Mendez: but I think, you know, I’m searching for change. I just started hanging out with a lot of people. I had cousins that were in trouble quite a bit, who came over and picked me up who were significantly older than I was probably five years, four years older than I was.
I remember my mother just, just hate them coming over. I think I’m just hanging out with the wrong crowd. Got me into a lot of trouble. That’ll do it. Luckily though, I, I saw the light. So it
David Hirsch: was this woman that played an influential role in your life.
Bob Mendez: Yeah.
David Hirsch: When you were a teenager. Who helped you sort of turn your situation around,
Bob Mendez: uh, ms.
David Hirsch: right. Who, uh, helped you see the light of day as it relates to the path that you were down with drugs and alcohol and truancy and gang involvement and, uh, you know, thank God for that.
Bob Mendez: Yes. Yes. I agree. 100%. So, um,
David Hirsch: I think you had mentioned in a prior conversation that, uh, You were not very focused on your studies, but you did attend the university of Oregon for some
Bob Mendez: time.
Yeah, I started there. Well, what happened was in high school, I think I kind of burned out high schools in Salinas. At that time, it was only like three and at some point they just figured, Oh, this kid’s not going to make it or something. I think educational system back then was different. And so I ended up going to a continuing school, uh, in Eugene and, um, Register for you afterwards, but had it not been for that program?
I probably wouldn’t to graduate high school.
David Hirsch: So you had mentioned that you weren’t focused when you were in high school. It was really tough situation. When you started your studies again, what was it that you thought you wanted to do from a career
Bob Mendez: standpoint? Oh, God, I had a counselor. Who was, she was fantastic.
Brilliant. She was. She had me on a roll and signed up before I knew it. It was amazing how quick she did it, but she had me sign up for a pre law and, um, you know, we had spoken about it, but I wasn’t sure if that was just the case. I mean, at that age, you really don’t know where are you going and what you want to do.
I mean, who really does at 18? I think it takes some time for everyone almost especially males. To know where they are, what they want more they’re going. I think we’re mature a little later. So, uh, I think, uh, you know, it wasn’t until 25, 26 before I realized what I wanted to do.
David Hirsch: And did you have to go back to school for that then, or not?
Bob Mendez: I did. I did. Uh, what happened is I was still in Oregon where my parents called them and my dad had a business at that time I needed help. So I came back. That was advised not to your number. You’ll never come back and I didn’t, I disagreed with them at the time, but sure enough, I didn’t get to went back, but I came back to help my father.
And then from there, I ended up going back to school at around eight 28. I was a carpenter almost immediately. When I came back after my father’s business, I ended up, uh, Going back to school in the medical field for the medical field, uh, for respiratory therapist. Well, it wasn’t
David Hirsch: a straight line. That’s when I heard you say high school to college and beyond no nobody’s life, typically as a straight line.
And you just emphasize that. So I’d like to switch gears a little bit and ask, how did you and Josie mate,
Bob Mendez: she was actually a friend of my girlfriend and then we met me and my girlfriend broke up for a while. I had been thinking about Josie and I, I called her up one day. Last job. That was, uh, the beginning of my life.
I guess I moved up here to the area where she was from versus Salinas, which is about 30 minutes North. And, um, I’ve been a barrier fence. A giveaway is about a half hour from Salinas North, and now in Morgan Hill now, which is about 45 minutes North. So. But I’ve never gone back ever since.
David Hirsch: Well, let’s talk a little bit about the special needs community first on a personal level. And then beyond I’m wondering before Robert’s birth, if you or Josie had any connections to the special needs community.
Bob Mendez: No. Oh God, no. We need to know. We didn’t know about the disability. So eight months into her pregnancy.
So it was kind of a shock. It was pretty difficult.
David Hirsch: Well, Robert’s entry into the world was a bit precarious to say the least, perhaps you can relay what that was about. You had mentioned that, uh, you knew at eight months, uh, in vitro that, uh, there was a situation.
Bob Mendez: Yeah, I remember, I remember coming home from work.
And Josie was concerned and she had mentioned, I think there’s something wrong. And I remember her saying that I remember sitting down and talking about it, that I told her something to the effect like that worried about it. The things would be okay. And then it happened again or she brought it up again one day I have to work again.
I think at that point, at that point, they had talked to her and told her more. They sent her home with an appointment to come back for both of us. And we went, I went to the appointment with her. That’s what they told us. Just a shock. I didn’t know what to think. So
David Hirsch: when you say they told us they gave you the diagnosis before Robert was born about a month before he was born,
Bob Mendez: correct?
Yes. How was he fat?
David Hirsch: Were they offering any hope or what were they saying at that point
Bob Mendez: in time? Yeah, there was not much beyond, beyond the fact that he was disabled physically. At that point, there was not much more set. Um, I think, um, when she went into labor is when is when they sorta, uh, they walked me around, she went into labor and they took me and walked me around.
I just being told things that I just wasn’t expecting, you know, things they were assuming he might come out this way, this way, this way. And all of these things are negative and I was just freaking out going, Oh, no, like I said, what they’re doing with bracing me for the worst and, um, Much to everybody’s surprise.
Just a little guy comes up sharp as a tack and the hair parted on the side looked like he had just come from the barber. Yeah. It was amazing. Then he comes out with her. Perfect. And it was a shock in a way at that time. At that point, we didn’t know what this mutation would be, but we found out later his Ben sharp, he was in a special ed for a while when he got it well enough for school and.
At some point, somebody looked at me and shook their head that this kid does not need to be, you know, just for physical reasons. I think he was there because they gave him a special ed, I mean, special ed, physical ed, which he did need for sure. Well,
David Hirsch: as I remember the diagnosis, I don’t know if it was before.
Maybe it was after, is known as Tetra Amelia syndrome. Is that what it’s called?
Bob Mendez: Yeah. You know, we’ve heard that word years ago and I haven’t heard it since, uh, until recently. Okay.
David Hirsch: And what is it and how many people does it affect either here in the U S or around the world?
Bob Mendez: Well, it’s basically being born with the absence of four limbs.
No arms, no legs. I’m sure. Every case is unique, you know, where they might have stubs, any not Robert’s case. He did that made things a lot harder. And number wise, I’m not quite sure, but we were told there’s less than a hundred of the world born like that, you know, uh, complete no stubs. And, um, yeah, at that point I was listening to numbers.
I was still in shock. Yeah. There’s not too many people like him at all. What
David Hirsch: meaningful advice did you and Josie get early on that helped you
Bob Mendez: get through this? Oh God, it was, it was all about God. You know? I mean, this is the guy didn’t come no instructions or no handbook, nothing like that. So everything we did with him was spontaneous or just inventing things to make his life easier.
He had to figure out a way we knew mentally he was sharp, but. We knew he would become, I guess, bored. And that was one of our goals was to keep them from becoming bored with everyday life. So we would come up with things to do for him, but there was, there were some people that were bored. I got to mention Kathy MREs, who was his age throughout his years at school and Pete and also coach Pete physical ed teacher for the special ed.
I remember him coming home from work with any he’s talking about coach Pete. And I think who’s this guy he’s talking about. And it was, it was people that was a great guy who loved Robert Bly. They both did. And they helped a lot. That’s
David Hirsch: fabulous. And a fired member of the birth order. You already had an older daughter, Jackie who’s a few years older than Robert.
Right? And then you went on to have another daughter, Maddie. Three or four years after Robert. So it sounds like things could have been pretty hectic with Robert sandwiches in the middle there.
Bob Mendez: Yeah. It’s not easy. It’s hard enough handling Robert and trying to give the girls as normal, a childhood as possible.
It seemed like they chipped in and helped to, you know, as they got older, especially Jackie, she was older than him. She was right there with him, helping him do this, do that,
David Hirsch: where they protective of their brother.
Bob Mendez: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Without a doubt. What were
David Hirsch: some of the more important decisions you and Josie made raising three children, including Robert?
Bob Mendez: Some of the more important decisions I think was keeping them in the neighborhood. As he got older, he met the kids in the neighborhood and we had the opportunity to leave and get a bigger house and, and, uh, more than once. And we decided not to basically to keep him there. In those days, it was a real estate was booming.
And we had the opportunity to go to the rally. Also we’ll get home for less, much less money and chose not to stay here. Keep me here because he was grounded. He was, he was rooted already. He was accepted this place right here. Became a, it became very important for him. We thought him growing up here.
David Hirsch: Yeah.
Well, thank you for mentioning that. Cause um, there’s decisions that we all make, some of them which are financial, right. Which seemed to Trump, a lot of other decisions. And it sounds like that would have been a wise financial decision, but like you had just mentioned, uh, it would have uprooted him and the unknown would have been how’s that gonna work for them
Bob Mendez: with
David Hirsch: no certainty.
Bob Mendez: Right.
David Hirsch: So I admire you and Josie for foregoing, the maybe more advantageous financial situation or what was in your family’s best interest, including, you know, what would be in Robert’s best interest.
Bob Mendez: Yeah, I’m sure you know, that the older kids get the harder it is to move, but we knew once he got older and older that we weren’t going to go anywhere, he could break down his wheelchair and break down.
Down the street and within five minutes, somebody would be right there to help. And we weren’t sure he’d get that elsewhere.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you again for sharing. I don’t want to focus on the negative, but I do want to have you reflect on what were some of the biggest challenges that you’ve encountered over the last 30 years?
Bob Mendez: I think keeping them occupied, keeping them occupied, keeping them safe. Roberts. He’s a lot hotter than us. Is the body temperature. We release approximately 80% of our body to our limbs and he can’t do that. So he became that heat. Then I remember in going to school with no sweater on one day, it was a bit nippy outside and they were looking at us like, don’t send them to school like that.
You know, a lot of people do I think, but they didn’t know. So keeping them healthy was one obstacle. Everything he did he do with his mouth. So at that point, we’re re we’re relying on people to wash their hands when they’re had given his one at school with his pen, whatever. Oh yeah, it was, that was a, was it a challenge when a man
David Hirsch: fall and hurt himself or have those types of experiences or not?
Bob Mendez: Yeah, he’s had those winnings as a child. He had a ma sat a few, uh, as an adult or 18 anyway. Well, that’s the worst time the bus brought him home one day and he was crying and bleeding and I guess he was strapped in. So when she hit the brake, he flew out of his chair. No. So that was one that comes to mind.
And the other, another one was his high school prom night. The night was over. I guess everyone was saying goodbye or whatever, and the lights weren’t on and quite on yet, they were still damaged. His tire caught the edge of the ramp and he slipped right there at the end of the night.
David Hirsch: Oh my gosh.
Bob Mendez: Yeah. You know, when he goes down like that, there’s no break in the fall is gonna hit concrete or whatever.
He’s on a headfirst. And the most recent time was about a year ago, I think right here. So I was tearing the garage into is under concrete. It was driving me crazy. I’m concerned about that. It’s always going to be concern.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, that’s just a hazard. If he doesn’t have harm, dialogues is only thing you can do to break the fall, you know, cause probably to hit his head or, you know, somehow twist your turn, you know, at the last second.
So he might not do that.
Bob Mendez: Right. Funny. He said that’s exactly what he does. He’ll twist it depending on how much time he has. I mean, he may. Minimize the damage, but it’s hard. I feel so bad for the guy when that happens. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Well, I can only imagine. Um, I remember when I was 10 years old, uh, we were riding this little 50 CC, uh, Honda minibike around my dad’s, uh, driveway, circular driveway.
I called a sack drive by and we were trying to go as fast as we could. And I somehow steer it a little bit too far over into the bark chips and then lost control couldn’t steer and ended up going straight for this like a hundred year old Oak tree and hit it square head on and go flying over the handlebars.
And then like you were saying, you know, if you have arms and legs, you’re going to break. Your fall or break the impact. So I put my arms up in front of me, so I didn’t hit my head and I heard something snap I’m like, great. So I was in a fair enough pain, but I have a. High pain threshold. I always have number having to go into my stepmom and told her what happened.
She looks at my arm, she goes, Oh, great. She said, lay down here. It felt like she like spent like a half hour hour putting her makeup and clothing on. Right. Just take me to the hospital and they get me to the hospital and you know, it’s pretty obvious my arm is broken. Yeah, it wasn’t like the bone was protruding or anything, but it was, you know, sort of at a weird angle and they said, Oh, we’re gonna, x-ray your arm.
Uh, your left arm looks like it’s broken. And they said, we’re going to x-ray your right arm because we just want to make sure you didn’t enter that arm too. I’m like, no, no, no, it’s fine. Don’t worry. It turns out I broke both my arms.
Bob Mendez: Wow. So
David Hirsch: I came home and a double cast and that, by the way, I was just visiting my dad for the weekend.
My parents had been divorced for the last four years. So I can’t even imagine. The phone call that my dad had to make to my mom before he brought me home and said, Oh, there’s been a, you know, a little bit of an incident. And he broke both of his arms. My mom must’ve liked gone through the ceiling,
Bob Mendez: but
David Hirsch: anyway, it’s just emphasize the point.
But you were making, which is Robert doesn’t have that. Right. You know, unless somebody is there to catch them brighter, prevent him from hitting something, you know, he’s. He was just a, like a projectile.
Bob Mendez: Right, right. Um, it’s a natural reaction, I think, you know, for you and I or anyone else just to break the fall.
Exactly. Put your hands out here, but he can’t do that. And, uh, we’ve been lucky so far. The last time he fell, he did break his cheekbone. Oh wow. I got some stitches. Oh yeah. He’s I was pretty much shot for a while, but he’s coaching at that time also. He was in such pain. And he went back on the field two days later.
And that was just crazy. I told him not to interfere, but
David Hirsch: probably looked like he got into a bar fight or something. Right. If
Bob Mendez: he did man, it was bad. It was bad. And you know, I’ve never had a broken bone in my life. Well, I take that back. I had a broken jaw, but other than that, Yeah. So I don’t know what it’s like though.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Knock on wood. I’m wondering what impact Robert’s situation has had on Jackie and Maddie as well as the rest of your family
Bob Mendez: for that matter. Oh, I think it’s made them appreciate quite a bit. I mean, all of us really, you know, brought us together as a family. I think the girls, you know, they were young also.
So playing with him was just, it was just natural. Then when they were young, it wasn’t anything different to them. Pull
David Hirsch: it, it sounds like is that they didn’t know any different. This is just their brother. Definitely. Right. This is his situation. And it wasn’t until, you know, others are meeting him for the first time that, you know, they recognize or notice these differences and it didn’t sound like it’s a huge obstacle at once.
They got to know him. You’ve referred to his personality a number of times, you know, what an outgoing and upbeat personality has. And no doubt. That’s part of the secret sauce here in Robert’s success. There’s is his personality
Bob Mendez: right now. And he, I remember seeing him, uh, he was speaking somewhere and I think I had not seen him prior.
So I was pretty impressed at how he carried himself. So. So I’m
David Hirsch: thinking about some of the organizations that have played an important role in his life. One of them was a Stanford DME. What’s the backstory on
Bob Mendez: that? Well, they supplied several things or attempted, but Robert didn’t take them. All that one thing he really liked was that kind of a Castro carpet made from first wheelchair, if you will.
And it’s pretty low to the ground on three wheels around and it had a little choice come right place, right about his chin. And the first time you got in that was watching them, like taking the first step. So it was pretty emotional. And also he took right to it. I mean, once he, once he sat him in there, it’s like, he knew what to do.
It could have been because of the PlayStation playing those games. I don’t know. But he knew right away how to, how to steer that thing. Well, it
David Hirsch: sounds like it was a liberating experience for him. Like you’d said, it was like watching somebody take their first steps. So that he’s got mobility where he might not have had that type of mobility
Bob Mendez: on his own.
Right. He had a big smile the entire time he was on it. So I think he liked it.
David Hirsch: I think you also mentioned in one of our past conversations that the Elks interestingly played an important role in his development. What was that about?
Bob Mendez: He went to school with a little girl and her grandparents were heavily involved in the outs and they saw him, I guess, one day, I guess that’s how it took place because they contacted me.
The thing was Jack, uh, Jack Little, uh, he has since passed, but great man. He was so intrigued by Robert that he really took a really strong liking to him and got him when he could, he supplied him with his first computer, desktop computer back there. That was huge thing, you know, also a lift or a van. So, uh, that was the first that we ever had.
Yeah. So those were big obstacles that. You kind of wrote into when you’re, when you have a disabled child and especially the lift. Oh my God. And you know, if you’ve ever, I don’t know if you’ve ever price bands out there, but insane. We were very, very grateful.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, these service organizations, whether it’s Elks or rotary or masons, and I do a lot of behind the scenes work, right.
You don’t see a lot of stories about them, but it’s impressive, but a role. They’ve had in your family’s life with, uh, assisting Robert, like you referred to.
Bob Mendez: Right. Thank God Jack saw him, you know, it was Jack initiated contact. Like I said, you know, he didn’t fit into very many categories fit in for assistance anyway.
So yeah. Thank God that Jack made the first move and reached out. Well, let’s
David Hirsch: talk a little bit about Robert’s love of sports. Where did that come from? And how did that transpire from a young age?
Bob Mendez: God, he was born with that. Absolutely. He was, he used to do quite a bit when he was younger, not so much now because his hips are probably pretty sore right now.
But back then, you know, he used to walk around on his hip seat. You’d swing a plastic bat, uh, asked me to pitch him the ball every day I got home. Uh, he hit the wall, you know, the grip, that thing and, uh, and still maintain his balance. That was crazy. You know, things he did. And we took him skiing. They basically, they put them in a kind of a seat with a ski and then they had an instructor kind of hanging onto them with rains and they’d let them go with controllers, control the speed.
But he controlled everything else as far as turns and stuff. And he ate a few times, but he loved it. He loved that thing and we could believe that it was even possible that swing swing was a good thing to have him being a little hotter than normal swimming was a huge, he did quite as much as, as much as you would think.
He could do, he did play the drums in seventh grade, I think seventh grade band. So he surprised us in a lot of ways. I’m sure he did a lot of other people also.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it’s another reminder not to put any limits on your child now because of a physical or an intellectual disability. And if they’ve got the desire, you know, I think it’s our responsibility as parents to try to figure out how to connect those dots or how to help them connect those dots.
So it’s very inspiring to hear these stories. So his love of sports and lots of different sports somehow manifested with football. What was it early on that sort of peaked his interest in football? Cause that’s not something he was able to do himself.
Bob Mendez: No, I think, um, I think playing those games that’ll have to do with that.
He got pretty good at it, joining some tournaments and, and actually do well in the tournament. So also people couldn’t believe that, but. They couldn’t believe they were playing against a kid with alarms. So I think he just took a real liking to it.
David Hirsch: So when he was in high school, was he involved with the football team and one way or another
Bob Mendez: or not?
Oh yeah, I think it’s persistence just got him out there. He would watch my distance and I think the coaches realized or noticed it was out there every day. So you got an invitation from them and. Come on over. I was, you know, he was so pumped about that. I remember him coming home and talking about that.
They found a role for him, you know, and it made him feel like he was fitting in. And that was important. Real important to him. I think when he talks about it, that’s how it started. Anyway, that was in Gilbert.
David Hirsch: So it started, if I can just reflect on what you’ve said, playing like a electronic game, like Madden football, which you became.
Good at and competitive for that matter. So we must have a competitive spirit and it morphed into high school football where he was more of a spectator or bystander. And then he got invited to be part of the team. And how did that transpire? I should say, from being involved with the high school football team, while he was in high school himself to wanting to coach.
What was the turning point or what was it that sort of drove them, do you think?
Bob Mendez: I think, um, you know, he knew he couldn’t play. So again, going back to the games, I think that’s why he was so happy, but, you know, just playing the game because he could do it that way. It was put them in another world, I guess, you know, him getting the opportunity to buddy up with the team.
They’re all practicing. And they initially gave him, uh, uh, oral. I think he liked the commodity, the sport itself. Uh, being involved and it’s very competitive. I haven’t heard him say it for the first time. Not that long ago that I hate to lose. I’ve never heard him say that up until about a few months ago at the first time I ever heard him say that.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s hard to teach somebody, right? I think people have different drivers. Some are super competitive. They hate to lose. Like you’re just saying, you know, they’ll just do whatever they can to be first.
Bob Mendez: And
David Hirsch: others are more achievement oriented that put a really good effort out. But if they’re not the best, they’re not unhappy, right?
It’s not something that’s like a winners and losers. They don’t think of the world is winners and losers.
Bob Mendez: You know, he, he says that and at the same time, he’ll tell me what you have to lose to learn how to live. You have to know how to lose otherwise. They don’t learn from it. And where he gets all this knowledge, like an old man.
I have no idea.
David Hirsch: I’m going to say that the Apple hasn’t fallen very far from the tree. Let’s
Bob Mendez: leave it at that.
David Hirsch: But, uh, you know, I, uh, I learned about your family’s situation, Robert’s situation specifically from this amazing story that ESPN, uh, not so long ago, right. Just months ago now.
Bob Mendez: And part of it is.
David Hirsch: The beginning where. You and Josie are interviewed as some backup things that
Bob Mendez: you and I
David Hirsch: get to to
Bob Mendez: in 10 minutes might take him an hour,
David Hirsch: but he never complained about it
Bob Mendez: was just a really easy child. And he just was really, really happy. What’s your favorite team?
He’s got a gift. So it doesn’t require some to be physical, making them aware of that. I think he just took the ball around.
What happened was that, uh, I guess one of the producers for me in his parents saw an article that, uh, mercury did sounds like mercury and, um, somehow contacted him through the writer and they got to talk. And then. So it happened, it happened right after they spoke once about me. So I think she was out here two days.
David Hirsch: Oh wow.
Bob Mendez: I could be wrong, but I, I think he was out here in two days and they spoke in person, one thing led to another and they came up with that. Uh, he expanded, came up with that idea of making the book documentary and the documentary was actually supposed to come to an end before the season started. I think.
And then they said, you know, Hey, let’s go through the season. And they did, they lost our first game. Ended up winning. I don’t know. I don’t know how many more a total wreck. I was like 82 at the end of the season. And we ended up losing by three points in the championship game. So somebody said that the only thing that could have made this documentary better is if you’d won.
And I said, well, maybe not. Maybe he is a poor too. We’ll see. Yeah. Yeah, well, I
David Hirsch: watched the documentary. I don’t know how many times. I’ll just be honest with you. It was so inspiring
Bob Mendez: at this time. I just want to introduce to you your new JV accounts, Rob Mendez.
I appreciate that coach cable. Thank you, coach. You know, football is my passion. This is going to be my 13th year coaching and I can’t wait to get to know every single one of you believe in yourself, believe in your teammates and believe in what you’re doing. Are we clear gentlemen, I’m excited guys.
Obviously it was a little shocking and there was jokes going around. Typical teenagers, you know, and guy with no arms or legs. Not a lot of people have seen that. If you’re taken back, that’s just natural and that’s human. But after the first two seconds, it’s just a normal guy. I don’t care how good you are.
I don’t care how experienced you are. You guys are going to do everything as a team though. He may not look like a coach. He definitely acts like one, one day that I care about more than anything is being a family. That is one thing I take pride on. I love people. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.
I love everyone. So if you guys can’t show love on this football field, then you better get off me.
David Hirsch: You know, it’s like, wow. Um, it was so real. And then, you know, they get into the football season. Then he is barking at these, uh, players to give their best and give it all they have. And you know, what a role model it is to so many people, uh, other coaches and parents, and you know, these young athletes just to have brushed up against Robert.
They’re not going to be the same person. Right. They’re going to be better people as a result of that. And then I think what you were describing is that there’s the championship game at zero to zero, going into the fourth quarter, the other team’s scores,
Bob Mendez: they get a, like a
David Hirsch: field goal or something and, you know, you’re just rooting for them, right.
Just to make that last play, get the touchdown. And they came up
Bob Mendez: short. I think what
David Hirsch: Robert had to say to his players, Which demonstrated, like you were talking about earlier so much maturity for a young guy, like a young man, like he is right. To be able to console them. And to let them know that, Hey, if you gave your best, you have nothing to be ashamed of.
You know, keep your heads up. Know this is life, right.
Bob Mendez: It’s going to hurt today. And that’s okay if it hurts because we cared a lot because we love this game of football. I really sincerely want you guys to understand how much I appreciate this. You guys have given me a lifetime of memories.
finance. They’d always doubt him. Cause they see a man in a wheelchair to us. We see our coach. Who’s perfect. Pushing him off the field after the games, it makes me feel like. Proud to have him as my coach, let’s go with the floodplain. His kids would follow him no matter where he go and you can actually see the changes in the kids.
Can I get you a hug? Can I get a hug? He wants the best for your children. And I told them one time, Oh, there’s not a lot of money in this rubber. And he told me not everybody does what they do for money.
they gave me the feeling of
David Hirsch: importance
Bob Mendez: and I don’t think they know that
David Hirsch: and understand
Bob Mendez: that maybe they will one day, but, uh,
I love those kids and I’m always going to remember them. Yeah. I think we make a perfect team. Can we agree on that?
It’s amazing how many people have seen this thing and, uh, and who has seen this then it’s, you know, things get back to us and we can’t believe who is doing this, you know, We’ve seen it and make comments about it and put it on their Facebook pages and all this other stuff. So it took off.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it was the timing of it.
Maybe if it was done five years ago, like you said, you know, why did it take so long for somebody to do a story like this? Maybe the timing wouldn’t have been right, right. It would have been a smaller story. It wouldn’t have been as impactful or meaningful, so there’s a time and a place for everything.
Anyway, I’m just thrilled to major acquaintance and. Gotten a dose of inspiration along the way, uh, from you as the dad, you know, dad to dad, and then just to see the impact that he’s had on these young people’s lives, uh, you know, his story is still being told, right? He’s a young guy, there’s a lot of bright future ahead of them.
Bob Mendez: Right? Absolutely.
David Hirsch: So I’m, I’m wondering just from a practical standpoint, cause I know people are going to be asking me
Bob Mendez: well, where does
David Hirsch: Robert live? Does he still a little bit home or does he live independently? Um, how does he get from point a to point B? Right. Just practically speaking.
Bob Mendez: Right. When he moved out, when he told us he chose to move out and he told us he wanted to, and he was going to, I couldn’t see it, you know, I couldn’t see and being away from us, but then I thought more about it and I thought, maybe this is what he needs.
If he needs independence, as it is physically, it wheelchair does that for him to a point. But. This is going to give him independence within also. So let him go. Now. He’s not far from us. We’re here 24 hours. We’re here for him. If he needs help, it was hard. It was like letting them go to school for the first time when he went to school, he was 18 months.
I think he was still in a diaper. And I couldn’t see that in him go. It wasn’t, I don’t think he’s even speak in full sentences, you know? And, uh, I couldn’t see that in him go. I said, no. And after a while, I think I was talking to her, I thought better of it. They got through to me and we let him go and he loved it.
Never missed a day, but when he moved out, he loved that too. I mean, he’s never been back. And when he left, he’s never been back. How long ago was that? You know, I’ve told him about, I’m going to guess about, I think he was probably about a 22 mini. Wow. Now he’s. Got a caretaker he lives with, and Mike’s a great guy.
And I’ve said very often now, thank God for Mike. So I’m wondering
David Hirsch: what role spirituality has played in yours and Josias lives.
Bob Mendez: You know, neither one that was, were Sunday church quarters on a regular basis growing up, or my, I know my parents, uh, they started to take us when we go. I must’ve been about four years old.
They didn’t continue. So needless to say, we, we, we stopped. It’s kind of strange that Robert and, you know, that’s one regret I have in life is not introducing them to God or at an early age. That was my, one of my main mistakes and parenting. He took it upon himself and he reads the Bible daily and we do, it’s a Starbucks.
He reads the Bible there, or wherever every morning he could tell you this and that about Bible stories that I know I don’t, I think that helps him. Yeah, well,
David Hirsch: it’s pretty remarkable. I remember one of the interviews that I did last year, rabbi Bradley, artisan, who is a Dean at American Jewish university in LA.
And he has a 23 year old who actually has 23 year old twins. His son is autistic, pretty severely autistic and is nonverbal. And the way he talks about it is that he doesn’t know how people. Without faith can get through the struggles that life has, but they must be some of the strongest people in the world because they depend so heavily on their faith to get through their situation.
And I thought that was really profound. And that’s sort of what I heard you saying is that it’s been a source of strength for Robert because you know, there’s a lot of things that he can’t do.
Bob Mendez: And
David Hirsch: what do you fall back on? If you know, you feel like you’re powerless or you’re on equipped. To do a lot of things that everybody else can do.
And, uh, it’s, uh, I think a source of strain for people to fall back on their spirituality and
Bob Mendez: their faith. Oh, I, I agree. I mean, I’ve done it myself and, uh, he’s absolutely right. The way he described it, you know, the way he described it to me, the way he feels, the way it makes him feel is exactly the way it made me feel.
I don’t do it on a regular basis. I probably should, but he does it every day. And I think I can see why. Nope. So I’m
David Hirsch: wondering in the category of advice, if there’s any advice that you can share with dads or parents for that matter about helping a child with a disability, reach their full potential.
Bob Mendez: Well, listen to him for one.
I mean, don’t just hear him, listen to him, staying close to him. It’s important. Helping them find their passion is important. If they don’t find a passion. There’s a lot of things that take place. I think I can only speak for myself and my son, but I think, you know, frustration takes place, sets it huge, a possibility of them picking the wrong road, taking the wrong turn.
Definitely introduce them or at least give them the opportunity to pursue God. And that’s one thing I, I, I know I made a mistake. It’s not, uh, when they were young taking church. Cause as they get older, they, the learning thing that you should have learned, no, there you go. As far as religion goes, but, uh, I, I believe it’s a source of strength for him.
Make him stronger. Somehow find a way, I guess, like I said, a while back, they didn’t know. Handbook. Robert came with her instructions. We’ve had to bend things to keep them occupied. Yeah. Well,
David Hirsch: you can only look back and connect the dots. You can’t look forward, right? Like you said, there’s no handbook that says, if you have a child like this, you do that.
Right. There’s good practices that we just need to follow as parents. And I think one of them is what I heard you say is that don’t put any limits on your son or daughter,
Bob Mendez: right? Absolutely.
David Hirsch: No matter what their situation is, physically or intellectually err, on the side of including them, err, on the side of challenging them, they surprise us.
Our kids always surprise us that sometimes in a negative way, but hopefully mostly in a positive way. Right. Because we created an opportunity for them to Excel and to experience things that they might not have otherwise. So I’m sort of curious to know, um, why did you agree to be a mentor? Father is part of the special fathers network.
Bob Mendez: I think because for me it’s been, it’s been a pretty, a challenging road. I think it is for all young parents. I mean, we were young, we were young. We had Robert, we were young when we had Jackie. I used to say, uh, if I could do it over, it wouldn’t have to, I was in my thirties, 35, 36. No, there’s good and bad to both, I guess, you know, there’s benefits of having a Murray or having a blade, but.
I think, um, I think Robert was a blessing and, uh, we have to, we have to see that, realize that when you say we used to cry about it and we still do, but you gotta look at the flip side to it. No, he’s doing well for himself. And to be honest with you out of my three children, I think he’d be the least I’d be worried about.
David Hirsch: Wow.
Bob Mendez: That makes sense.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it seems like he’s created some independence for himself and you know, maybe, you know, he’s surprised you on the positive side
Bob Mendez: he’s wise. Yeah. He’s smart.
David Hirsch: And he’s a survivor. Yeah. That’s one of the things that. Having not met him, but just understanding the story. He’s a very resilient guy and, you know, the way he inspires other people is just amazing.
And I just want to say thank you again for being part of the special fathers network, uh, as a mentor father. Well, it’s unlikely that we’re going to run across too many other dads. Robert is like one out of a hundred born without arms or legs. Maybe there’s others that you can mentor that might be missing a limb or limbs, right?
Not as an extreme, a situation as Roberts that people can relate to your story, to your experience and not be as overwhelmed by their facts and circumstances as they might be without somebody like you to look up to or to
Bob Mendez: talk to right with today’s technology. Sure. I mean, it’s, it’s a loss and I don’t feel bad about missing a limb or something like that, or losing a limb, but, you know, think about it where we’d rather be, he was born in the twenties.
David Hirsch: I don’t even want to think about
Bob Mendez: that. Right. So I’m
David Hirsch: wondering if there’s anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Bob Mendez: No, I think I’m, I was, I’m happy to hear from you or Robert had conveyed the message over to me that you had, uh, Inquired and I was happy to call you. I mean, I think it’s a good thing that we meet people like yourself.
And when you were involved or have a child with a disability, you’re going to meet a whole bunch of people that are good people that you would’ve never met before. I, you know, I do not think given the deal, given the hand that you received, you made a whole bunch of great people.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s one of the blessings, I think, uh, when you’re thrust into.
A situation that you might not have asked for, but once you get there, you realize, Hey, I’m meeting a lot of people who are very grounded, right? They’re real people. You can relate to them. They’re usually very humble. They’re not arrogant. And you know, I think the world’s a better place, you know, when you’re hanging with people who are less selfish, less arrogant, and more open minded about their situation.
Bob Mendez: Yeah, we’ll put,
David Hirsch: so I’m wondering if somebody wants to contact you, Bob. What’s the best way to go about doing that?
Bob Mendez: Oh, through email, probably a B like boy, S H R R K K, gmail.com. Okay.
David Hirsch: We’ll put that in the show notes as well.
Thank you for taking the time. In many insights as reminder, Bob is just one of the dads.
Who’s agreed to be a mentor father as part of the Special Fathers 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 to your own, please go to 21st century dads.org. If you think the work that we’re doing is valuable, please be sure to leave a five star review, share the podcast with others and consider making a tax deductible donation so we can continue to offer the Special Fathers Networkfor free.
Two young dads raising a child with special needs, Bob. Thanks again.
Bob Mendez: You’re welcome my pleasure.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the dad to dad podcast produced by couch audio for the Special Fathers Network, the special fathers network as 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, to find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if your dad looking for help. Or we’d 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 dad.
Bob Mendez: If you enjoy our podcast, please like us on Facebook and subscribe on iTunes or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
I’m Tom Couch. Thanks for listening.