Keith Bantock: 1956 - 2016
Keith would laugh at anything, even if it wasn't all that funny. He would burst into big belly laughs and slap his knees with howls of delight. He would bend over and hold his stomach as if trying to protect it from his own hysterical laughter. He would wipe the laughter tears out of his eyes and try to catch his breath. Just watching Keith laugh made everyone laugh.
It was his laughter and gentle ways that made being friends with Keith so easy and delightfully rewarding.
But now, I along with his family and other friends, mourn his death. Today, I have been trying to find things that I know he would have thought to be funny. Things that would make me remember him and smile. There are lots of topics as we have been laughing since we met in Grade 9, in 1969
The photo below shows us just before hysterical laughing in 1973 at Lion's Head as we prepared to go under.
Keith was so much fun to watch a comedy movie with. The chair he was sitting in would rock with his laughs. Daily conversation was full of good laughs. Even Keith's text messages made me laugh. For me, Keith was a big bundle of joy.
Everyone who knows Keith, knows that he was an incredibly wonderful, kind, gentle, giving and brilliant man. His death presents a great loss for all of us.
I will miss him but the memories of his joyfulness and his laughter will always be with me, to encourage a warm smile.
The video above presents a thirty minute overview of our trip to Italy.
It really was an incredible time with Keith. He loved everything about Italy, especially the culture and the leisurely speed. He also liked the cheap wine, cheese, bread and sun-dried tomatoes.
It was a joy to be with him as he saw for the first time art works and architecture that he had studied and duplicated. The Brancacci chapel and Masaccio's Expulsion of Adam and Eve (shown at the top left corner of this page) settled with him quite nicely as he had painted that scene when he studied at Queens. But, the Church of San Miniato was his favourite.
He enjoyed each day, the vastness and beauty of Sicily, but he loved everything about Florence.
Keith's last night in Florence - for now
Click the pictures below to see larger images.
We even laughed when surrounded by weirdness and danger.
Picture this: Sicliy 2014! We had found an out-of-the-way, just-by-luck, Bed and Breakfast located outside of a town called Piazza Armerina. As we drove into the parking lot of the B&B, there was a man spinning around in circles on his scooter in the tiny parking lot, making gravel fly everywhere. Keith, who was driving our cute little Fiat, slammed on the brakes and managed not to run him over.
It ends up that the crazy spinning man was the owner of the B&B and was delighted that we were staying. He took us inside and insisted on feeding us pounds and pounds of melon, which was nice at first, but a person can only eat so much melon. Keith and I looked at each other with bloated bellies wondering how we could get the man to stop pushing melon chunks in our faces. He didn’t speak any English, but he spoke Italian, German and French. Keith’s high school French kicked-in and he managed to communicate with him quite nicely.
The B&B man recommended that we go into town for dinner at a friend’s restaurant and he provided us with directions. We drove into town, parked the car and started to wander through the streets in search of food. We turned all manner of corners on all kinds of streets, all the while trying to remember how to get back to the car. Each of us knew that the other didn’t have a clue where we were or where we had left the car and that we would be in trouble with this later.
As we continued with our quest a rather strange man on a bicycle started to follow us. He eventually zipped past us and stopped directly in front of us, squarely blocking our path with his bicycle. He flailed his hands around and pointed at my feet while saying something in Italian. Keith and I tried to get around him. He blocked our way and continued to point at my feet. Now, I know my feet are showstoppers, but usually they don’t actually stop the show!
We worked our way past him and he continued to follow us, very closely, while continuing to loudly mumble, chant and point at my feet. The situation was not comfortable. At this point, Keith said out loud, "Don't worry Deb, I will protect you!" Although Keith was deadly serious, that comment made us both burst into hysterics. We were walking down the street scared stiff holding our bellies while we laughed. Between breaths Keith was saying "No, seriously, I will protect you, I will" and we laughed and laughed.
As we giggled our way down the street we somehow managed to lose the sandal man, actually, it was more likely that he lost us. He probably thought we were as crazy as we thought he was. Why on earth would two people be laughing so much in the presence of a crazy man?
We found the restaurant and ate a lovely dinner while overlooking a grand piazza and lovely church façade as we watched the sun go down. I got to feel Keith's biceps during dessert and we laughed some more.
After dinner, we had to find our way back to the car. Once again, let me reinforce the fact that Keith and I are directionally challenged. We walked and spun our way through the narrow streets and alleyways for almost an hour and never found the car. It was dark now. We finally stopped to ask a well-dressed man who was speaking with another man. He spoke some English and knew the area where we had parked the car. He told us that the other man worked for him and that he would take us to the car.
We started to follow the man who was clearly from India and who clearly needed a bath. I am not making a statement here that every man from India needs a bath but this one surely did. He walked in front of us while his body odour leisurely lingered with us at nostril level. He talked with Keith letting Keith know that he had just arrived in Italy from India and was receiving monthly welfare payments from the Government of Italy. (So much for working for the other guy!) He was trying to get Italian citizenship and then wanted move to Canada and would Keith please sponsor him into our great country. Keith and I glanced at each other in total shock. Discussions ensued about entering Canada and that Keith could not help, nor did he know how to help someone enter Canada.
The Indian man was badgering Keith for his phone number and had his cell phone out and in Keith's face, ready to add Keith to his contact list. At this point the crazy sandal man reappeared on his bicycle and started to follow us again. So now we had a wanna-be-Canadian trying to be best friends with Keith and a crazy man trying to get my feet! In the meantime Keith is explaining that he doesn't give out his phone number to just anyone, which we all know isn't true.
As Keith dodged the cell-phone, the sandal man was swirling his bike in circles around me and then as quickly as he appeared he sped off into the darkness, just as we arrived in the neighbourhood of the parked Fiat.
Keith and I veered to the left and were delighted to lose these two men and to slide into the safety of the car. It was a totally weird experience but we laughed about it on the way home and then drank lots of wine as we snacked on left-over melon.
The photo above is the view of the Arno River taken on Keith's last night in Florence. There is a little bit of a rainbow on the right.
Click here to read more about Keith's trip to Italy.