Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Papa Joe

This past week, the world lost one of the most incredible human beings known in the history of man.

Papa Joe Klink

To say Papa Joe has influenced my life is the understatement of the century, it's even an understatement to say he's influenced every person he's ever met. While we are all deeply saddened that Papa Joe physically isn't here anymore to crack jokes, throw snowballs at us, or play tennis with us...he's a legend. He's going to live on forever - his idiosyncrasies and phrases will go down in history and be passed on as proverbs. But I know that if there's anywhere that I would pay tribute to my grandfather, it would be on my rugby blog....because he's the one that introduced me to rugby in the first place. If it weren't for him, this rugby blog might not exist...my rugby career might not exist...and I may have NEVER found the love of my life.
Papa Joe and his grandchildren were 11 peas in a pod [there's 10 of us total between my mom and her 3 siblings]. Since birth, he's been the #1 fan of anything we possibly did in our lives. 
...sometimes, as a kid I didn't feel that all the time.
I was very competitive in sports. I had a lot of tough critics in life, myself being the toughest. I never seemed to be good enough. For a while I even got cut from a lot of sports teams. 
But "bookies don't pay off at halftime..."
Papa Joe took my cousins, my siblings and I out to so many different playgrounds and parks and sporting events. He must've had a complete dead arm at the end of some play dates from how many tennis balls he pitched to us during batting practices. He drove us and what seemed like half of our team sometimes to practices and games. Wherever we were, he was front and center. Even at the softball state finals [shown below] he somehow miraculously ended up on the infield to snap the perfect picture of the moment. That's what he was all about...capturing moments, seizing the day. 
"It just doesn't get any better than this..."
In the many times in my life where the pressure was on, and I seemed to be surrounded by stress and negativity, Papa Joe was that shining light. We would walk in on him at his "breakfast club" in Nahant, updating all of his buddies on what his grandson did last night, his granddaughter did last week, and his other granddaughter is doing tomorrow. He always made me [and everyone else] feel wanted, accepted, and special. 
When I was about 10 years old, Papa Joe took me to Harvard for the millionth time to walk around the beautiful campus, see the old buildings, and maybe even sneak into an event for free because he LITERALLY knew everyone. On one fateful day at Harvard, Papa Joe walked me over to a rugby game. 

[sorry the drawing is a little shaky...it was hard to draw it out and not get emotional doing it]
I had NO idea at the time what we were looking at. I literally thought all of the players in a scrum were hugging each other, and I thought it was the strangest sport I had ever seen. But I remembered that one moment. I remembered that one moment all the way up until college, when I saw a sign for women's rugby as I was moving into my dorm. I thought, "OH MY GOSH....THAT'S THE SPORT PAPA JOE SHOWED ME ALMOST 10 YEARS AGO...I'VE GOTTA CHECK IT OUT."
...of course the rest is history. The girls at the women's rugby table were friendly off the bat and sucked me right in. At the time I was slated for Division I softball, had my game footage submitted and everything. But I dropped it to give rugby a go, and it was the best decision I have ever made in my entire life. And I would have NEVER even been faced with that decision if it weren't for Papa Joe. 
It's been hard sometimes for my parents to watch me play due to some brutal injuries. Some people were disappointed that I didn't stick with the softball, and didn't really understand why I had made such an abrupt change. But Papa Joe supported me the entire way. He talked up my rugby career and even made the trek out to Buffalo, NY for one of my games.
"DON'T EMBARRASS THE FAMILY NAME!"
He most certainly made sure I didn't! I still remember him telling people, "KATIE'S GONNA GO TO THE OLYMPICS FOR RUGBY, MY GRANDKIDS ARE ALL GONNA MAKE ME FAMOUS." 
,,,no Papa Joe, you did that to yourself. You made yourself a legend through your selfless heart, passion for meeting new people, and ability to tell an absolutely amazing joke. You'll be with me every step I take, and you'll be there to remind my future children
"....YOU'RE SWINGIN', I DON'T CARE IF YOU STRIKE OUT BUT YOU'RE GOIN' DOWN SWINGIN'!!"


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