Blackhawks

Earlier today, my dad and I ran a couple of errands at Ft. Carson. At the time, two Blackhawks were coming in for a landing on the parade field in front of the headquarters building. It is one of those sights I do not grow tired of seeing – military aviation in motion.

When Laurie worked as a DoD contract MD a few years ago at Ft. Carson, she had an opportunity to make two medevac missions into the training range. On the second mission, she was able to take a photo of two dust-offs coming in to take her and an injured soldier to the hospital on post.

coming in for a landing: a pair of UH-60 Blackhawk dust-offs
photo credit: Laurie Westin

In Vietnam, my dad flew with the surgeon when it was their turn to survey the aid stations, or there were heavy casualties in the field. (The latter rarely happened.) They were always accompanied by a UH-1 Huey or AH-1 Cobra gunship that provided overwatch. This is one tactic that has not changed through the years.

Both Laurie and Andrea rarely make these type of missions, but when they do, the situation must require their presence. The last time they did, two years ago, they talked about the experience for the better part of a week.

One

While much has changed in a year, much has remained the same. The everydayness of life has continued on – working hard, relaxing, a little playing, laughing. She, herself, would admit 2016 was a difficult year. “Yet, you cannot let these instances govern your life,” she would undoubtedly say.

It is exactly one year since my mom passed away. The last few days of her life were long and hard. Simply, you knew her time was very, very short. Only she knew when was when. Both Laurie and Andrea, after long hours at work, would stop by for nearly 30-45 minutes to visit with her and dad.  A little worry had crept into their voices. It was expected since we were talking family.

With her concerns increasing, Laurie consulted with her geriatrics professor from medical school. His advice was sound, “you’re doing well by keeping her comfortable much as possible.” Laurie wished she could do more. When her and Andrea asked if she was okay, mom would always reply, “Yes, I’m okay. I feel fine.” We were pretty sure she was trying to allay our worries and concerns.

In the year since, it has taken some time to adjust. We’ve had our moments when we said, “make a mental note and tell mom later.” Or, the girls saying, “we need to call grandma and tell her what happened.” Then, in a flash, we remember. Moreover, we are glad mom’s passing seems not to have affected dad a great deal. If it has, he’s not telling but we know he misses her much.

While our counting of days phase is largely behind us, mom would be very glad that we have remembered her. Hopefully, she won’t ask if we learned anything from the counting.

Love you, miss you.
xo

Washington: Enduring Wisdom

“[No man has the] right to mislead others, who have less access to history, and less leisure to study it. . . . Thus substituting falsehood and deception for truthful evidence and fair argument.”

 – Abraham Lincoln, “Cooper Union Address,” 1860

Gilbert Stuart “Lansdowne” portrait
image courtesy of Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

In his farewell address to the nation, George Washington warned against faction (better known as partisanship) and sectionalism. Dividing into factions and sections, while natural, would tear at the political fabric of America. A populist would use those divisions to deprive the people of their power and place it in the hands of a few, unjust men. Further, it would undermine the common ground needed in which we can agree on those principles and matters that unite us as a people and a nation.

This mattered to Washington: We are a nation that is more than an idea, more than a dream, but where all things become possible. For this to be realized, her people must stand fast against the internal divisions and foreign meddling that would naturally follow. It would require her people to be aware and engaged. Failing to do so, we fail ourselves and we fail our nation.

A  little more than eighty years later, America was facing her greatest test as the nation divided along the factional and sectional lines. The institution of slavery had become so pernicious, the constitutional process was becoming inconsequential. In his address at Cooper Union, Abraham Lincoln plainly stated [people] will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.”

Though a devastating civil war ensued, had Lincoln failed to state his case at Cooper Union, America would have become the failed experiment in self-governance. America would fracture along the factional and sectional lines Washington had warned many years before.

In the here and now, many have their own interpretation of America – choosing to believe what they want to believe and dismissing the rest as romanticized nonsense. They choose to believe America was never about an idea, was never about a dream. It is contrary to what every founding father believed what America was and could be, and they believed it regardless of their personal politics. Washington was content to serve one term as president. Democratic-Republican Jefferson and Federalist Madison made a joint appeal to Washington, asking him to serve a second term. They believed if there was no second term, America would die in her infancy.

Shortly after the inauguration a few weeks ago, actor Sam Waterston, penned an opinion editorial in which he rightly notes how lying has become a daily constancy and danger. “The great issue of today is lying — constant lying in public. Lying is the ally of faction … it is the greater danger. Yes, the word is lying — not negotiation, salesmanship, bluster, attention-getting, delusion, deception, braggadocio, exaggeration, bullying, alternative facts, or any other euphemism.”

Waterston warned of the corrosive nature of lying: “… the frequency of his lying, Trump has revealed a truth we have avoided confronting: Like partisanship, regular and habitual lying is an existential threat to us, to our institutions, our memories, our understanding of now and of the future, to the great American democratic experiment, … It blurs the truth, subverts trust, interferes with thought, and destroys clarity. It drives us to distraction.”

Washington’s warning, advice and wisdom in his farewell address remains relevant today as it did in 1797. Lincoln’s Cooper Union address remains relevant today as it did in 1860.

It becomes a matter of our willingness to listen and heed the wisdom.

NOTE:

If you wish to comment, civility matters. No coarse, belittling or insulting language may be used. As administrator, I reserve the right to DELETE any comment that I deem to be disrespectful. If you cannot abide by these terms, please exit this site.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Before heading home, we stopped at our favorite, small BBQ restaurant for dinner. It wasn’t very crowded. For a change, we got the large picnic table rather than three small tables pulled together. Since it would be Christmas in a few days, more lights were strung in the restaurant. Not exactly Christmas colors, but it made for a more festive setting.

Many of the restaurants, and bar and grills, in Old Colorado City have house bands. Smaller, compared to the larger ones up the street, this restaurant also had its small group of 4-5 musicians. They would perform five or six short sets throughout the night, three times a week. Occasionally, they would also invite smaller bands and artists from around the region to perform. With Christmas coming over the weekend, instead of the weekend performances, the restaurant adjusted their music schedule to Monday and Tuesday evening performances.

When our waitress came around to see how we were doing, Andrea asked where was the music group. The keyboard, two guitars and drum kit were there on the small, corner stage. Sandy, the waitress, said they were out with the flu. “Not the best time to get it with Christmas so close.” Before dessert time, Chris the manager made the rounds checking on her diners. She was pleased to see all of us. Most of the time, it is only myself and the girls on our monthly date night.

late summer combination: BBQ and rock-n-roll on the restaurant patio (Sept 2016)

While Chris knows Elizabeth has won a few singing contests, she doesn’t ask. However, she decided to ask on this night. The worst Elizabeth could have said was “no.” Thinking about it for a few seconds, Elizabeth said she would if mom and dad could play the keyboard and guitar. And, songs of her choosing, no Christmas songs. No Taylor Swift, no Adele. Chris readily agreed.

The Songs

Elizabeth jotted down the titles of the songs she wanted to do. Fortunately, she made it easy for her mom and I – we know these songs quite well. Since winning the karaoke contest last May, in Texas, the Great American Songbook has been playing in her head. On her list, the Burt Bacharach/Hal David songs from the 1960s: I Say A Little Prayer For You, Walk On By, and Any Day Now. The other two songs making her list was another Bacharach/David classic This Guy’s In Love With You, and the quintessential American classic, Shenandoah. The latter two songs meant mom and dad would sing too. Deborah, who plays piano beautifully, was glad she wasn’t drafted for the “von Trapp” effort.

It was very much an unplugged set. The centerpiece was Andrea’s a cappella rendition of Shenandoah, which she last did at JR’s funeral mass in 2010 – just as moving and powerful. The other diners enjoyed the set very much. The encore was Anyone Who Had A Heart, a song Elizabeth sent soaring with her voice. Mom loved it.

Our dinner check, Chris picked it up – no charge.

Notes

Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote more Top Ten Billboard hits in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s than any other person or team. Bacharach noted, “good song is good song” and will transcend time. He toured last year at age 88, and plans to keep doing so.

Burt Bacharach videos –

 

Coming Home

Written by Tara Scott Westin

“Look into their eyes, you will see their spirit. A spirit meant for freedom. A freedom that runs with the wind.”

The Native American Indians of the Great Plains were unequaled in their horsemanship. They were able to outride the best cavalrymen in the American West, earning them much respect and admiration. Their horsemanship skills were grounded in understanding the very essence of the horse. The trust between warrior and horse was absolute, and always as equals. It is in the knowing, and understanding, the essence of the horse which forms the cornerstone of learning horsemanship at RRC.

    *     *     *     *

On a recent, quiet Saturday afternoon, we had taken possession of one, very handsome grey. Abandoned at RRC by his previous owner, he lived a horse’s life. Paddock by day, stall by night. Mark and Trish made sure he had the comforts of home like every other horse stabled at RRC. His name, ridiculous and lame, RG-2. Who calls a horse by some unknown code listed on the ownership papers? Mark gave him a more proper name of Cloud Rider. He responded well to his name. Mark, however, heard Deborah call him G-Man one day and began calling him the same. He answered much better to G-Man.

G-Man checking out the grass after arriving at JN Ranch (Jan 2017)

During breaks in practice, Mark let Deborah walk G-Man in the covered ring. No lead rope, no halter to guide him except her voice and touch. It had taken weeks for Mark to bring him to this stage. When it comes to horses, those at three years old, with little to no training, are likely all instinct. Teaching options are fewer. Why the previous owner would bring a very raw horse into an equestrian setting is beyond puzzling. Mark thought the best G-Man could become is an escort horse or manager horse, one who would have a calming effect on other horses. If not, a steady and reliable working horse.

After striking an understanding with Mark, Deborah began working more with G-Man. Much of the work was centered on voice commands – forward, stop, back three paces, left, right. Yet, G-Man was resistant in wearing an halter – including a rope one. No halter she explained, “no can ride.” Two weekends later, Deborah was able to convince G-Man an halter was worth wearing. She had shown our horses, and others, wore halters. Whether he gave into her “nagging” or was convinced, it really didn’t matter. He began wearing a rope halter.

from Trish, G-Man wearing his leather halter (JN Ranch, Jan 2017)

Deborah ramped up the instruction, walking and running with a lead rope attached to his halter. Soon, the time arrived to be under saddle. “Unbroken,” Mark said, “it’ll make for an interesting ride.” He slowly mounted G-Man and had him take a few steps forward. After a short break, Mark had G-Man walk the ring for a few minutes – doing the basics he practiced with Mark and Trish, and with Deborah. G-Man passed his first test.

Though Mark and Trish knew he would be coming home with us, there was a little melancholy in seeing him leave. They had seen him progress from a very green horse to one with basic skills. Trish made sure he had his own kit – grain bag, hay net, a pair of customized halters, a saddle pad and a bag of his favorite treats.

While his time under saddle is limited, G-Man continues to do well in learning the basics. Deborah said it is a matter of time when his time under saddle will begin to increase. Since coming to the JN Ranch, being around our horses, and the ranch horses, it has been a good experience and influence for G-Man.

contemplating the future: Deborah and G-Man (JN Ranch, Jan 2017)

What ever his future maybe, G-Man, formally known as Cloud Rider, will undoubtedly have a good one under the steady hand of Deborah.

About the author

Tara Scott Westin is a fifth year senior attending the University of Colorado. She will be graduating this coming May with a BS in Biology (Microbiology). She graduated with honors from St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Colorado Springs in 2012.

A highly decorated rider with the Rustler Riding club, Tara has won multiple blue ribbons and other placement ribbons with her horses, Brie, Cameron and Candace (Happy Girl). In 2006, she was named Comeback Rider of the Year – the only non-competitive rider in Rustler Riding Club history to win this award.

“Ride now, ride forever”

Remembering

By Lauren Westin, MD

Sitting at my desk late last night, tying off the loose ends of the day’s work, it dawned on me it has been two years. It seems like yesterday when David called early that morning saying we needed to talk, and not over the phone. Yet, it does seem to have happened long ago.

In the hectic of Friday’s “everyday busy”, not a thought of mom came to mind – not even the anniversary of her passing. I know she would say it’s time to set it aside. “No more sadness.” Instead, concentrate on your family, concentrate on your patients. She would not expect any less. However, I felt bad at that moment last night. I should have remembered earlier, but I didn’t. Both Andrea and David said I shouldn’t beat myself up over this. They’re right, but I did.

from the one

Tara called her grandpa early this morning and they chatted awhile before heading out to ride with Deborah and Elizabeth. Afterwards, I talked with dad. He said it was okay. Mom is imprinted on all of us, in our thoughts, our deeds and our words. Staying true to your values is remembering and honoring mom to the highest degree.

It was the reaffirmation I needed.

Love you, mom.

Laurie
xo

About the author

Lauren Westin is a practicing trauma surgeon with University of Colorado Health, and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She holds certifications in trauma surgery, trauma medicine and microsurgery.