Chuck Hedges has celebrated a lifetime of Father’s Days, the first one when his oldest daughter, Lori, was born in 1961.
He has five children — Lori, Karen, Chuck Jr., and twins Kevin and Carole — so Hedges understands what comes with Father’s Day. He has a closet of ties.
But it doesn’t take long — the time for him to climb out of his wheelchair and fall into the couch — to realize Father’s Day 2018 will be different. Even more meaningful than the previous holidays if that’s possible.
Eight months ago, Hedges, then 81, suffered a debilitating stroke one Sunday night while was staining the deck of the home he shares with his wife, Phyllis, and their son and his family. At the time, Hedges felt “different, peculiar,” he said.
He didn’t know he had a stroke, but two days later, when the symptoms persisted, he went to UC Health West Chester Hospital where he was diagnosed after “everything fell apart on me,” he said. “I could do nothing.”
This was a challenging time. He had always been active, whether that was working, mowing the grass, cooking dinner or providing for his family. He did at 82 what most can’t do at 62.
Then, just like that, Hedges couldn’t lift his head or move his left leg. For a man who used an accounting system to track every penny he spent after he was discharged from the U.S. Army, Hedges didn’t know how to add two plus two. He knew his name, but not the names of his wife or children. Eventually his memory returned.
Being told he suffered a stroke was “very, very scary,” he said through tears. “I knew nothing about strokes. I couldn’t move anything.”
He spent 10 days at West Chester Hospital, then was transferred to the inpatient rehabilitation unit at Atrium Medical Center. He could be a spokesman for the hospital.
“I started my life at Atrium,” said Hedges, who was released on Nov. 10 and continues therapy there.
Hedges and his wife of 62 years live with their son, Chuck Jr., and his wife, Jamie. Last summer, they sold their homes in Cincinnati and bought a house together in Monroe.
Understandably, the move was difficult for the couple.
They had lived in their home in North College Hill for 48 years. Raised their children in that house.
“That was home for us,” Phyllis said.
Now they’re thankful for the move.
As their daughter-in-law Jamie said: “It was three months instead of five years before they needed us.”
Hedges said his daughter-in-law drives him everywhere.
“What a wonderful move God made for me,” he said.
He’s thankful for the “fabulous times” he has shared with his family, which includes 17 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
“God blessed us with five children,” he said. “I’m thankful this Father’s Day for being a father. I love my children. You do what you can for your children. That’s what I’ve done in my life.”
Any special plans on Father’s Day?
“What they cook me for lunch will be fine,” he said with a smile. “If I don’t eat it, I will go hungry.”
Hedges was asked to define the role of a father: “He’s head of the house. You are supposed to run it. You provide for it, you raise your children in the right manner and look after them.”
Hedges has been “a tremendous role model for our children,” his wife said. “He has been a good husband, he has been a wonderful father.”
Carole Dufresne, 46, who lives in South Carolina, said her father has filled all of his obligations. They talk weekly.
“My father is a wonderful example of fatherhood,” she said. “He’s devoted to my mother and he’s hard working, sacrificial and gave us all work ethic.”
Throughout the 35-minute interview, there were times when Hedges couldn’t finish a sentence as tears streamed down his face. He’s as tough as they come, but he understands tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. He has attended too many funerals to think differently.
“I’m grateful that the Lord has let me live through this,” he said of his stroke. “I can be here at least this Father’s Day. I don’t know how much longer He will leave me here.”
Having a father survive a stroke has confirmed what Dufresne already knew: Life is short.
“This Father’s Day, I still have my dad,” she said. “I can call him and say, ‘Thanks Dad and I love you.’ And he gets to hear it and say it back. Every day is a gift.”