Fashlete™ of the Month

The Original Warrior

June 2012

Name: Vito Sztykiel

: Attorney, (Husband, Father of Four, Grandfather)
"I think putting away your childish things when you grow up is ill advised. I think you can stay a kid forever." -Vito

In honor of Father's Day we are featuring Vito - not just because he is a father (and he happens to be my father), but because just two weeks away from his 60th birthday, he is an example of the fact that the constant pursuit of athletic feats will in fact keep you young forever.  With two titanium hips and several back surgeries under his belt, he is still playing ice hockey, windsurfing on lake Michigan in the summer, and keeping up with his 4-year-old grandson around the clock.
"Dad is the original warrior. He was Crossfit before there was Crossfit. Everything is for time and everything is hard." -Adam (his son)
Case in point: When my dad helped me move into my college dorm he grew impatient waiting for the freight elevator.  Solution?  He carried my disassembled lofted bunk bed up 7 flights of stairs... and then rebuilt it without even so much as a sigh.  No questions asked, there was work to be done and it had to be done as quickly as possible.  He has always maintained his physical fitness by attacking life in the same way that many of us attack workouts.  The correlation between being functional and being fit is nothing new to my dad.  Sure, he goes to the gym, but I think he finds it more rewarding to work up a sweat by hauling bags of mulch to the backyard in the summer and building ice rinks in the winter.  That's right, every winter with his own two hands, my dad built a rink in our backyard... and you can bet that he was out there skating as often as his kids.
I attribute my dad's strength to a lot more than the fact that he has remained physically active throughout his life.  Outside of his physical capacity, he has the mindset of a warrior.  At some point in our childhood, my dad gave me and each of my three siblings a copy of the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling.  Occasionally he would quote portions of the poem in his deep, clear voice convincing me that words, thoughts, and ideas are all a part of what makes a person strong.

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: 
Well... if all that... then what?  Kipling would respond: "you'll be a MAN, my son!"  My dad, on the other hand, would blow off the choice of pronoun and gender specificity in the poem and leave it to us to figure out what it meant.  We got the message dad, loud and clear.  We got it through your delivery of a 19th century poem and through your actions and attitudes in our 20th century upbringing.  Physical strength starts and ends in the mind.  Do not allow external pressures to diminish who you are inside.  Your ability to to believe, your willingness to try, and your commitment to act is what gives you true strength.  You decide if you are strong or weak before you even lift the first finger.

My dad decided long ago that he is strong.  He is 100% committed to this perception of himself and that is the driving force behind everything he does.  Strong father.  Strong athlete.  Strong lawyer.  Strong husband.  I believe that his mental strength has enabled him to do things physically that many men in their late fifties would have shied away from decades ago.  His mind, even more so than his body, has enabled him to continue to do all of the things he loves even as he approaches his 60th birthday. 

We'll be celebrating my dad's 60th in a couple weeks on Lake Michigan where he will be rigging up the windsurfer on a daily basis, taking his family out on boat rides, and tackling his grandson in the sand.  He'll smoke a cigar and sip on a glass of cognac at sunset and remark on how Lake Michigan is the best place in the world.  And it is.  Because he made it so.  All of his decisions, all of his efforts to power through life with physical, moral, and mental strength have led him and his family to this place and this moment.  Sunkissed and smiling with our bodies tired from play, we will all agree: best place in the world.
June Fashlete of the Month is for all the Vito's out there, all of the dad's that would literally break their own backs for the sake of their families.  It is for the dads who lead by example; the dads who steer their children away from danger while simultaneously showing them how to be brave and strong in the face of it.  It is for the dads who never stopped running, jumping, and playing; the dads who have kept their minds, bodies, and hearts young for themselves, their kids, and their grandkids.  
If we don't say it enough: we are grateful.

  • Author avatar
    Sarah Wilson
  • Men's Fitness

Comments on this post (1)

  • Jun 15, 2012

    Omg, I am still crying. Adam, your words show such strong, deep love and respect for your father. He is intense, he is caring, and only wants the very best in life for himself and his family. I love my brother as much as u, and your words about him absolutly took my breath away. God bless, Aunt Donna

    — Aunt Donna

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