Continuing my thankfulness for grandparents, here's...
Grandpa Napikoski August 1919 - July 2002
I knew Grandpa Napikoski, my dad's dad, less than I knew any of my other grandparents. I feel bad about that. They lived in New England and I lived in the Southwest until the year he died, actually. Grandpa loved fishing and he loved the Red Sox. My early memories of him are going out on the fishing boat (with no idea what I was doing, really, but it was still fun) and him smoking his pipe. I totally have no problems smelling pipe smoke - maybe because I have pleasant associations with it.
I was fascinated by their New England house which from my perspective had four stories (including attic and basement) because in Arizona almost everything was on one level only. I was most fascinated by his cellar full of tools and just lots of stuff. I am sad that he died just two short years before his beloved Red Sox broke their curse to win the World Series. The first time I went to a Major League baseball game (not counting spring training) was when he took us to Fenway Park. I wish I knew more about his wants, hopes and dreams in life. He worked for years at the paper mill there in Millers Falls, Massachusetts, and made sure he provided for his family and sent his five kids off to college. When I visited them at age 3, 8, 11, they would always plan fun activities like big lobster dinners or a boat ride up the Connecticut River. He asked the usual questions, "How's school?" and the like, but I was shy and didn't know what to say beyond a few answers. I realize now I should have just babbled. Why not? Babbled and listened, too. They flew out to Arizona to see us a few times during my teen years, and I'm pretty sure I sat through the obligatory dinners and then rushed to the other room to call my high school best friend and talk about dumb stuff. I did attend the grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary party in 1997, the first time I really related to my grandparents and the aunts/uncle/cousins on that side of the family as a person and not as a silly child. I'm glad I had that experience.
I was on a road trip, coincidentally, from L.A. to Boston in the summer of 2002. When the traveling companion and I reached Boston, where she was moving, we planned to drive out to western Massachusetts to visit my grandparents before I had to fly back to L.A. One thing led to another and after a couple days in Boston we had only one more evening. Meanwhile, my grandpa had gone into the hospital. He had been in and out of the hospital for a few things, and I thought nothing of it, except that it was a little weird to bring a friend to introduce to them to the hospital, but still, we tried to make a go of it. It was raining, those long summer New England rains. I didn't have a clue that I should take Route 2, so we took the Mass Pike to Route 9 somewhere in the middle of Massachusetts and then drove on that as the wet and visibility got worse. I had a vague idea, based on being driven around by my dad on various visits, what to do when we got near Amherst, but it was taking us forever and getting later and later. I was confused at Deerfield, even though I kind of recognized a parking lot, where we stopped to ask directions and call them. It was 9 o'clock and I wondered if it was too late to even go to the hospital. I called the house but got no answer. After more fretting, we ended up driving back to Boston, aware that we had blown the plan, but I knew I'd be back in Massachusetts in the next few months and I would just see my grandparents then, when we had more time. The next morning, as I was packing my suitcase, my grandma called and I got on the phone, ready to babble an apology for not making it out to visit the night before. Instead, she told me grandpa had died. I called my boss in L.A. and said - Yo, I am going to this funeral, sorry I've already been on a three-week vacation but it's getting extended.
My grandpa's father and grandfather came from Poland. They shortened the name Napierkowski to Napikoski in the U.S. A lot of that family didn't have offspring. My dad's sister's kids have all sorts of different last names, and my sister changed her name when she got married. I wouldn't change my name anyway, but I do feel like I'll be one of the few people with the name Napikoski in this world, and I like to think I will leave some creative legacy that spreads it far and wide.
Next up: Grandma Napikoski