Happy Birthday, Dad

Today is my dad’s  birthday. Henry “Red” Sutkoski turns 90.

I’ll go down to West Rutland this weekend where he lives, and we’ll have a pretty low-key, but happy  celebration.

My older sister always makes these terrific birthday dinners for people, so that will be great.

I’m obviously extremely grateful my dad is still around. My better qualities are his legacy. Plus, I’m still learning from him, so I need him around longer. He’s a great guide.

I’ve long paid attention to, and tried to emulate his best traits.

He really has a sense of humor about things, and a lot of what he says is pretty offbeat. He can convince people of anything. I remember once he was collecting stones from the side of a highway to build a stone wall. (yeah, I’m doing the same thing, I got the idea from him)

Anyway, a police officer stopped him and told him he couldn’t do that.  He managed to convince the officer he was a geologist from some damn university. The cop took off, either believing dad, or just not wanting to deal with the story.

Another time, Dad was walking down the street and a car stopped, looking for directions to a nearby town. The woman in the car asked,  “How do you get to Tinmouth? ”

Replied dad: “My brother takes me.”

Of course dad then hurriedly made it clear he was joking and gave the people in the car directions to Tinmouth.

Which leads me to another part of dad I really try to take after. He’s really kind. He always wants to do things for people. He’s always friendly and warm to those he meets. He’s certainly no pushover and he asserts his rights when he must, but he always assumes first the person he meets is a good one.

Another thing about Dad is he’s always interested in things. He constantly watches the news, talks to friends and knows the issues. If he doesn’t understand some complicated topic,  he asks questions. He’ll often ask me what’s up with the news and seek out my opinions, His interest in things rubbed off on me big time, since I make a living asking questions as a newspaper reporter.

In January, I wrote  an article about dad for the Burlington Free Press. People liked the article, and Dad.

Looking at the pictures of dad that ran with the article, taken by my brother-in-law, David Jenne, a friend asked. “How old is your dad, anyway?”

“He’ll turn 90 in April,” I replied.

“Wow, he looks so sturdy,” she exclaimed.

That’s true. He’s alway been a physical guy, like I am now. I remember him always doing projects around the house, hefting heavy things, wrestling stones, dirt, whatever into its place.

Dad’s frustrated now, because he can’t walk as well as he once did. The arthritis really hurts him. But he soldiers on, not willing to give in. He wants to push forward. Just as I do with everything. Another lesson learned.

Dad likes to tell stories. He grew up in West Rutland, and he is the perfect window into a Depression-era marble quarrying town. He brings out the personalities of the people he grew up with, what the town looked liked, how it changed. You feel like you are there when he tells those stories.

So anyway, I hope Dad has a really great birthday. And many more. As I said, I’m a student of dad, and need to learn more so I can finally graduate and become a whole, honest man.

In Polish families, birthdays are marked by the song Sto lat

“Sto lat Sto lat/ Neich zyje zyje nam”

Roughly translated, the song says, “May you live 100 years.”

Live longer than that, dad.  And  Happy Birthday!

2 Responses to “Happy Birthday, Dad”

  1. denis Says:

    what a great tribute to your dad!

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY MR. SUTKOSKI!!! may you indeed reach 100…and beyond!

  2. Jeff Says:

    If you are any indication what your dad is like, then he must really be a great guy. Your admiration in him makes you shine. I’m sure he’s proud of the “chip off the old block”. Tell him I said so…..and may you both “live long and prosper”.

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