He wasn’t supposed to make it.
And yet I’m so very grateful he has continued the fight.
In May of 2020, my father Merv Symes was diagnosed with MSA.
It is a terminal neurodegenerative illness. The brain stops communicating with the body. he will lose his ability to move, talk, and eventually swallow.
My dad doesn’t ask for much. But he asked us to consider moving back to Moncton. Emily Dugas and I started packing.
I’ll never forget that Sunday.
It was heavy. But the kind of heavy that brings clarity.
I wanted my daughter, not yet 2, to have real memories with him. I wanted him to be surrounded by family as we wrote this next chapter. And I wanted to be close.
We moved back.
That first day back we hugged. There were tears. And then I asked him – What lessons do you want your granddaughter to know?
There were three (everything is threes with my dad):
1. Find something you love and chase it.
2. Find a way to see the world.
3. Live more in the present. Spend 80% of your time in the present, 5% in the past, and 15% in the future. I spent too much time in the past and the future. Learn the lessons of the past. Set goals that inspire you. But live in the present.
We prepared for the future. My cousin’s wife, Candice Bannister took care of the physiotherapy.
We installed mobility bars from Healthcraft (Thanks John O’Brien) to help my dad navigate the house.
My Aunt (Evie Bannister) and my Uncle Mel leave no task unattended.
He still trikes 150kms per week (you read that right – many weeks he rides over 200kms). My brother, Mark Symes goes with him on Tuesdays. Shane Bannister and Zachary Bannister also make time for rides.
My daughter loved the bike carrier that first summer. Now she scoots around on her bike.
Dad traded his boat for one with a joystick and we got two summers on the water. My daughter loved it.
They bought a hot tub for the winter.
He married his soulmate in July.
She did not sign up for this – they were only together for a little over a year when his health spiraled but she’s been steadfast. I’m grateful for you Sheila Cameron.
When he was no longer able to captain the boat, they traded it for a small motorhome. The bed and the bathroom on wheels allows him a level of comfort.
Most importantly, it allows him to stay involved.
As newlyweds, they traveled to the Grand Ole Opry. They arrived the night of the CMA’s and bought last-minute tickets.
They are in Florida now. He can bike and enjoy the warmth.
Tonight he will watch Tom Brady play.
My father has always played an incredibly important role in my life. He taught me many lessons. He was there for me every time I fell.
But I think I’ve learned even more in the last two years watching him live with and through this illness.
It hasn’t been easy. And we’ve all stumbled. But I’m grateful for the three lessons. Find your purpose, see the world, and live in the present.
I’ll add one more:
Some things matter. Some things don’t. Don’t confuse them.
Nov 24, 2021