Wednesday, 9 February 2022

Eulogy for Dad

Dad was born to Edgar and Julia Kitney on the 10th of June 1940 in Rainham. He was raised in 59 Station Road and for a short time alongside his cousin, Christine. At 12 his sister Ruth was born and you can see in old family photos his pride of being a big brother. His other cousin, Don said despite Keith being 11 years older than him and not seeing him much, he still has fond memories during the 60s when the family would gather together. Even then, Dad loved to be around family.

In 1954, at the age of 14, Dad joined the Royal Marines school of music at Deal where he played a variety of instruments from Violin, clarinet and trumpet. Whilst there he took on lots of different roles. Usually to benefit himself somehow. He enjoyed kitchen duty peeling potatoes or giving tours on a Sunday as it got him out of the mandatory church services. Being sporty he included himself in lots of different activities; one of which was Boxing.

Dad left the Marines due to a split lip, which prevented him from playing the clarinet. Although he did this by accidentally bumping into someone he would later claim it was down to a boxing fight.  

Upon leaving the Marine he still continued being a part of social activities. It was being a part of a cricket team where he first met Mum, Pauline.

They had all gone to the match on a bus. Dad was sitting at the back with his friends, when he flicked a cherry pip forward, luckily for him it went straight down Mums top. Dad calmly walked up, asked the captain of the team, Mums date, to move as he wanted his pip back. Stating confidently and clearly "she’s mine now". Mum must have enjoyed his confidence as shortly after that they went to the pictures on their first date. Apparently Dad said he was very well behaved, even if they did walk the long way home which he'd retell with a wink and a grin. In 1963, at the age of 22 they married and as Dad said the rest was history, that history spanned a 50 year marriage.

However, on one occasion Dad's overconfidence backfired. He must have thought he was pretty tough as an ex Royal Marine. He hadn't quite anticipated that Mum was also a fighter. When they were playing around, Dad goaded her to punch him, with a quick hit and dad was out cold on the floor. After that Dad always did what mum wanted and she did whatever she could for her "Keith".

After the plot of Berengrave Lane was passed onto Dad, Mum designed and built their family home, having everything the way she wanted which made Dad happy; a home that Nathan and I were pleased to be brought up in.

Dad became a milkman and worked for Bourne and Hillars and then on to Unigate. Spanning a 30 year career.

Being brought up as a milkman’s son wasn't the most glamorous profession to boast about but looking back dad showed me that he had a superhuman career.

He worked ridiculous hours to serve the community. 1 person at a time, all year round. Nathan and I, as well as others, would help him, wrapped up in multiple layers, wearing hats, scarfs and gloves to keep us warm in all weathers and he would run the round, working up a sweat in a t-shirt and shorts with a cigarette hanging out his mouth.

We would watch him stack 5 or more full milk crates on top of each other and see him lift them with ease like a stack of books upon a shelf.

We would see a man cover more than just 1 round, working 12 hour shifts and then going back out to collect the money.

I personally have fond memories of having a house full of food and drink for the Christmas "rush" so other families enjoyed their holidays.

His commitment to his work, to the community was parallel to his commitment to his family.

For such a long time of trying mum and dad couldn't conceive. However, they always became a proud Aunt and Uncle to Christine's children, Ken and Norah’s and then later to Sue and Keith's as well as many others.

After 16 years they finally managed to adopt, adopting Nathan made them both so happy having a baby they so longed for. I read a social services report about Dad at that time that said "he was a quiet man who followed his strong wife's views and just happy that he's got "his boy". Of course, a few years later, adopting myself, they managed to gain the rights to foster a day before Mums birthday. Wanting to surprise Mum, Dad placed a ribbon on my cot to welcome me into the family as her birthday present.

Growing up our house was a bit different though. We didn't have the upbringing of "wait until your father gets home" but had more of a "Don't tell your mum I'm letting you do this". He wasn't one for keeping the rules. It may not have been a "good thing" but he gave myself and Nathan room to smoke, drink and have friends round. He even let Nathan, at the age of 12, drive the milk float around Medway; many things that we're sure mum wouldn't approve of. As long as we didn't do anything stupid enough to draw attention to ourselves or to him then he didn't mind.

Dad always had his funny ways.

It didn't matter when dinner was ready because he would have impeccable timing to light a cigarette the minute before Mum shouted it was done. Then to come in and moan it was too hot to eat because mum left it in the oven too long to keep warm.

He couldn't leave the house without having a hot coffee first. We'd be running late, all rushing around or sat in the car waiting and dad would be in the kitchen putting the kettle on to "wet his whistle" before he went.

He loved being out in the garden although we couldn't call him an gardener. He would, methodically, start on one strip but by the time he finished he'd need to go straight back and restart. There was no point mentioning the rest of the garden being overgrown and messy because he'd "get to it soon" but never did.

Mum used to say that dad's eyelids were cellotaped to his bum. The moment he sat down in the front room he would fall asleep. And, however loudly he was snoring, the moment we changed the channel on the TV you'd hear his gruff voice say "oi, I was watching that" yet his eyes were still closed.

When going out for dinner dad liked to flirt with the waitress, or at least Dad's own way of flirting. It was the same routine. He would erm and urm about what to have even though he always ordered the same thing. He would question how full he would be or what he fancied and then joke that it didn't matter as he was a "growing boy" which, with a cheeky smile, ordered the mixed grill anyway.

Despite not playing, Dad's love of music remained. Growing up we had his record player playing a mix of artists and songs, although just to irritate him we'd play Ernie the fastest Milkman in the West, which he hated to mum's encouragement.

Finally, his dress sense. Dad liked to be casual and comfortable but also liked to dress smartly. He once said it was because he was a "MOD" back when he was younger. I think he may have lost that later on when he would smartly brush his hair, have a shave but wear an old jumper, cigarette holed tracksuit trousers up to his chest but with shiny just polished black shoes. Apparently, it was the shoes that made the difference.

When Dad became a granddad to William and James I saw a different side to him. He was playful, silly and enjoyed watching films with them. I have wonderful memories of Christmases at Dad's where he would love seeing the boys opening their presents, as well as putting an orange in each of their stockings to prove that they were both good boys to get one and not a piece of coal. He would also put in a little gift from Nanny Pauline in a way to remember her.

Although he would moan about the mess or the noise Dad enjoyed having children in the house and always tried spoiling them. His cupboards were always full of Jam tarts, jaffa cakes, chocolate rolls and biscuits. It didn't matter, squash and treat awaited any child that came in his home.

I won't talk too much about his later years. Battling 2 lots of cancer, dementia and Alzheimer’s and then the stroke it was tough to watch for those who loved him. However, he remained perky and chatty. He would happily chat to everyone inside and outside the hospitals. He'd introduce everyone who was with him and tell his life story as well as theirs.

Dad was happiest with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, Ash ready to drop and a cup of coffee in his hand ready to entertain.

He was a man of little words that would love to chat. A man who liked staying active but only after a good nag from mum. A man who would spend his weekends after work taking us back and forth from many activities such as football for Nathan and Ice Skating for myself whilst also ferrying mum wherever she needed. A man always committed to his family

He was a proud Rainhamite, milkman, brother, cousin, parent, grandparent and friend to all. But importantly he was a proud husband to his wife. Who I'm pleased are now finally together again. He'll be missed, by us all, who loved him.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written. I hope he had a good send off.
    So many wonderful memories. Sending love and hugs x