Thursday, December 25, 2008


There are many times when its hard to find a true purpose for today's television: too much sex, violence, inappropriate language, etc. Most of us can think back to a time when television was something that a family could sit down and enjoy together and possibly even stir up some meaningful dialogue because of some the characters or storylines. Television found ways to address social and moral issues in a sensitive manner yet were still entertaining: prejudice and bigotry in series such as All In the Family or the Jeffersons; coming of age in series like Family or The Wonder Years, The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie were historical series that inspired millions with stories of hardships and the bonds of family.
I'm Rick Spring and I'm an insomniac. No 12 step program for me, I dont take meds and when I start counting sheep, I see lamb chops and head for the kitchen so my eventual path to slumberland passes through some sort of TV programming; mostly series on DVD which I get through netflix. I have a love affair with netflix. But I digress....I have just finished a series called The West Wing. It ran for 7 seasons on NBC from 2000-2006. It received truckloads of emmys and TV awards while it was on the air including being called the Best Series in the History of TV by TV Guide. The problem is, with my coaching schedule, its hard to commit to a weekly show so I catch up with them via my beloved netflix. And I have watched some GREAT ones: Sopranos, 24, Lost, Grey's Anatomy, all the Law and Orders and many many many more. But I can state here and now unequivocably that The West Wing is without a doubt the finest dramatic series I have ever watched. The series is set at the White House and chronicles the the last 7 years of Democrat Jed Bartlet's (played flawlessly by Martin Sheen) 2 term presidency. Having just sat through night after night of Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren as they laborously pointed out distinctions between the republican and democratic parties in the last election, the terminology of the show was still fresh and relevent. Its not necessary to be a political expert to enjoy the nuances of the show because its the writing and the character development and interactions that make the show. The casting is dead-on. The set and staging make you believe you're in the White House every step of the way and, in the last season, there is even a live episode where Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits debate each other in their attempt to be the successor to President Bartlet as he leaves office after his final term. I could go on and on but suffice it to say that I truly enjoyed the month long experience of The West Wing and highly recommend it to anyone who can remember the meaningful TV of the past or wants to remember TV as something that was positive and inspiring in a time where we need as must positive inspiration as we can get. I do, however, hope its not necessary to stay up to 2 AM to get it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hi, I'm Aaron Spring's dad !!!

Yesterday my son, Aaron, turned 17. He and I, his mom, his sister, his brother in law and his niece went to eat at Chilis (he had his fav. country fried steak w/corn on the cob) then he and I and his mom went to see the new Batman movie (very long and incredibly average). Overall a very enjoyable evening to say the least.
Yesterday was an odd day to be sure. On one hand, having your youngest child turn 17 brings to the surface a certain degree of meloncholy as it speaks to your ever present mortality. On the other hand, and to a larger degree for me, the day allows me to take personal inventory of all the reasons why I never hesitate to acknowledge,, publicly or privately that I'm Aaron Spring's dad. I understand, mind you, that being a P.E. teacher/basketball coach for 15 years doesn't mean much except to say that I am in the "kid business". What that boils down to is that i have, do and will see every type of child imaginable in my occupation; from the truly horrible evil child (which would make me an absentee father if it were my child) to the wonderful adorable child (see: Brady Bunch and/or The Cosby Show) and everything in between. Having said that, I must say that my son is as close to the latter as any son could be and still be believable. Now he's certainly not perfect by an means. His room is a disaster (FEMA wouldnt know where to begin or as Mayor Nagin would call it "the mother of all rooms"), his grades are average at best (his main goal is to complete 4 years of high school without reading a book---and he's halfway there) and the next time he cuts our grass will be the first (he says he only feels motivated to help "old people"--i'm not sure what to do with that!). What he is, however, is as kind and good-hearted a person as i've ever met. He is constantly reaching out to those that he feels need his assistance; whether its the aforementioned elderly person, another child being bullied or otherwise mistreated or a friend going through hard times and needing a shoulder to cry on. He's always stepping up for other people which makes me proud. As for me, i've always tried to judge people by what they have to offer on the inside; the rest of it is kind of random: rich or poor, thin or fat, tall or short, smart or dumb, ugly or beautiful, etc. But the most important measure of a person, in my mind, is the quality of their heart -of their soul. Will their lives touch someone and make them smile? Will they leave this earth a better place than how they found it? Have they made a difference? I believe my son will be able to answer yes to those questions when its all said and done. I say that because of the unsolicited feedback I get from other people; whether its adults or other young people he's come into contact with. Without exception, when they see me or hear my name, they ask me if I'm Aaron Spring's dad and when I say yes, they have a grin from ear to ear as they regale me with some tale of how he was their child's friend or their student or whatever and just want me to know "what a great kid he is". I tell you if you've heard that before you know what I mean when I say there is no better feeling in the world- no higher praise- no greater rush- than to hear that said about your child.
I hope its many many years down the road but if i'm destined to draw my last breath tonight, i do so at peace knowing that no matter what the fates have in store for my son, he will go through his life loving and being loved in return. And if its not tonight(hopefully), I know one thing for certain: when he and I are walking through the mall and someone sees me and Aaron and says "Hey are you Aaron's dad?", I can, without reservation, plant a smile on my face turn around and say" Yes I am !!!"

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Silver Lining

Several years ago, my buddy Randall, left his position as Option 3 Specialist and Associate Head Boys Basketball Coach at Slidell High School(where we coached together). He was offered a regular education teaching position and Head Boys Basketball Coach at Franklinton High School. At the time, I was torn by his decision because professionally i knew that it was an opportunity to go back to his home town and alma mater to teach and coach which is always cool. Yet from a purely selfish standpoint, working with Randall for those 2 years at Slidell High were 2 of the best years of my coaching career and I hated to see him go. Of course, there were other factors both pro and con that had to be considered: our school system was about to get a substantial pay raise which he would miss out on but on the other hand he would be saving money not having to commute 90 miles each day; his teaching gig went from being expected to make solid educated citizens out of students which were way more likely to end up in the police reports(which many did) to a regular classroom with young people who could take advantage of his talents and passion for teaching; he was now given the opportunity to get back to running his own program and didnt have to fight with me to be the 1st one to get his hands around a players throat after being taken out of the game or being told to sit down by the morons with the whistles and the striped shirts. All were important issues that I know he struggled with as he pondered his decision. Selfishly I wanted him to stay but everytime I thought about trying to talk him out of it I got a picture in my mind of probably the most attractive inducement to make a man go from one job to another and that picture is at the top of this post. Randall sent it to me the other day on my cell. He is a coach by profession and he has a chance to coach both of his sons this season in football at Franklinton High School. That is an experience that many fathers will never get and would have been wrong for him to pass up. Relationships and memories have been and will continue to be built over the course of the next few months and years that will prove to be priceless and irreplaceable. As a coach and father as well, the picture is inspiring to me to say the least. On the left is Karleton, on the right is Eric and in the middle is Randall; father, coach and my friend.

Monday, July 7, 2008

"Steph the Weff"

I'm usually pretty good with words but I cant find words for this child so I'm just gonna babble for awhile. Stephanie Chantele Spring Beals. Turned 22 this past Sat. Pretty as a picture. Doesnt look down when she walks. Married a BIG guy. Great mom to Bailey. Big sis to Aaron. Learning to cook (poor Rus). Loves music. Used to eat like a pig. Hated stayn on Uncle Dan's boat. Changed her grades on report card. Used to shoot hoops with me in the backyard. Setter on volleyball team. Worked at CVS. "Spring into action". Watched a few Disney movies together. Doesnt like takin the "scenic route". Didnt get a license til last year. Loves takin pictures. Amazes me everyday with her beauty. Her Dad loves her very much.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Wishin' on 3 Stars

Closin in on the big 45 i reflect back often on the people who have been influential in my life and several people come to mind more than others: my grandmother charlotte, my step-father chester, my dear friend tiger edwards and my mentor dan ruffin. now these folks helped mold me into the person that i am today. I dare say all of them over the years have tryed with varying degrees of success to polish off some of my rough edges (shut up tiger) and i remain forever grateful that they saw something in me that motivated them to try to instill in me some of their own fine qualities. More on them later-today i'd like to talk about three people who i've come to know over the years but who regretfully I will never know as well as I wish i could have.
The first is Allie Smith. Coach Smith is an elementary P.E teacher like myself who i got to know several years ago as we worked together on fridays at Brock Elementary School here in Slidell. I dont know all of Coach Smith's history but I do know that he was involved with Covington High School's football program for many years-both as legendary Coach Salter's longtime asst. and as the head coach for several years after Coach Salter retired. Those of you that read this (both of you) and know Coach Smith know what an incredible individual he is and for those of you that have never had the honor to meet him I will try to put him into some sort of perspective but I know I wont do him justice. He is a relatively small man in stature but is in excellent physical condition and looks like he could run a marathon at any time. I'm not sure of his age but Im thinkin hes got to be around 60 give or take but looking at him you get the impression that he could put Mike Tyson on his ass in the blink of an eye. He carries himself in a soft spoken manner yet he does it with such an inner confidence that when he speaks, you are compelled to absorb every word as it comes out of his mouth. Kind of like the old E.F. Hutton commercials (for those of you old enough to remember those). I know from talking to several people over the years that his overall health is not very good and that he doesnt have the use of all of his organs and systems. I think its like 1 lung and some other organ is missing or something like that. Yet, i've never heard him complain about it nor have i been able to find anyone else who has heard him complain about it. He just goes on with his day to day routine as if he was 20 years old. I know through our discussions that he was screwed over by a new principal when she took over and because of that he has been sympathetic to my recent situation as i've had to endure the same scenario. Its hard to put into words what attracts me to this man spiritually although those of you that know him are shaking your head up and down right now agreeing that he is indeed a spiritually powerful individual. And i dont necessarily mean that in a strictly religious sense because I dont know him well enough to know his religious views or background - i mean it in the way that he seems to have such a solid foundation of old school principles and values that are so sorely lacking in most people today. I wish I would have had the chance to know him in the way that some of the people that I respect so much have had -people like Tiger and Coach Ginn and Coach Blocker - I have no doubt that many of the qualities that make them good coaches and good people can be directly linked to their association with Coach Smith. With Coach Smith, our times together are too few in number and too short in duration but afterwords when I reflect in amazement regretting that I dont know him better, I find myself feeling honored that I know him at all.
Another person who I wish I could say I know better is Uncle Dan. Uncle Dan is Dan Miller, my mom's baby brother. Uncle Dan is the one who in the late 60's when I was little and didnt really know what "cool" was just driving around in his blue VW bug being "cool". To this day he is just so frickin' cool. I mean hes a bachelor living on a beautiful sailboat in south miami. How cool is that? I mean define cool. You cant can you? But you know it when you see it, right? Thats this dude. Hes only about a dozen or so years older than me but life has just caused our paths to take different directions over the years and i only get to see him every couple of years or so. When I do get a chance to hang out with him i always get him to whip up a batch of his hamburger n beans . Awesome!! I just have some great memories of hangin out with him way back n the day. Doing some of his boy scout stuff (yeah that used to be cool), working on his worm farm down in grandma and grandpa allwardt (my great-grandparents) basement in illinois, riding in his bug, he was in a band back then too and that was cool they had some connections to musicians that went on to make it big like Gary Richrath from REO Speedwagon and some guys from the Fifth Dimension - we'd do some fishing every once in awhile out at isaac walton lake where grandpa was a member- his nickname is tinker- man he can fix anything i think he could make an aircraft carrier out of a rubber band 2 paper clips and a wad of gum. the original McGiver. I wish our paths crossed a little more often. Maybe I'd be a little cooler than I am (shut up tiger)
The last person I wish I knew better is my dad, Richard Howell Cleek, Sr. He and my mom divorced when i was 2 or so and we didnt see much of each other for the first 20 years of my life. He lived in Illinois and we had moved down to Louisiana. My mom married chester when i was 12 and dad agreed to let Chester adopt me soon after that. I remember dad calling me and asking me if thats what I wanted to do and me telling him yes. Didnt seem like much at the time cause i really didnt know my dad anyway so what did i care. So i went from being Richard Howell Cleek, Jr to being Richard Michael Spring in one short court visit. I do remember eating at some nice restaurant after. So anyway life went on. My mom didnt bring up dad much over the years. She was doing her best to raise me and the only thing i ever heard her say was that she wished she could have gotten some child-support to help take care of me those years she was raisng me on her own. But she never really talked bad about him. she just said they were just too young to be getting married she was just 17 at the time and that the only good thing to come out of the whole deal was me. (moms are contractually bound to say nice things like that). I dont really remember how it all happened but about the time my wife was pregnant with our 1st child stephanie it occured to me that i needed to reach out to my dad. maybe its because chester has just died and i was looking for something or someone to replace what i had lost i dont know. i just know somewhere along the line we just started talking. I remember early on that i seemed real comfortable with dad like i had known him and been around him the whole time when in fact the times that we actually were together could be counted on 1 hand. he on the other hand was squirmin like a worm on a hook. When we finally got down to it he said he was having trouble getting over the guilt of not being there for me while i was growing up and everything. I explained to him that I had no reciprocal feelings in that regard, that i had a father figure growing up that i was grateful for and that i wanted us to just let it go and start fresh. I told him i had a father and lost him and now i wanted a Dad and a grandpa for my kids. That was 21 years ago and to this day, I'm not sure how much progress we've made in that specific area. I guess regret is a powerful emotion for him to overcome. I hope i've relayed to him that i dont have any hard feelings about that. Its been a wonderful 21 years. i only get to see him once a year for a couple of weeks in the summer. we talk every other weekend or so on the phone and i try to send him pictures when my sorry ass can get around to it. Over the years i've gotten to know his wife, sis, who is truly an angel on earth. It comforts me to know that while I'm this far away he has her as his companion. I've gotten to know sis's daughters who he helped to raise especially kelly and misty. They are special people as well. What i've really come to discover is how alike we are yet i wasnt around him during my formative years so i guess that gives creedence to the argument of the genetic side of behavior. Our temperment, our procrastination, our recogition of the importance of family, our appreciation for classic movies, our love of music, our standards when it comes to our friends-- its uncanny sometimes. I have come to appreciate what a warm and caring person that he is and i admire how he has made mistakes in his life and how he doesnt blame them on anyone else, he claims responsibility for his actions and tries to make restitution when he can. He has helped raise Misty's daughter Ciara while she tries to make it as a single mom. She is smart as a whip and a lot of it is due to the time that he and sis have spent with her. He has been a terrific grandpa to my 2 children Steph and Aaron and now as a great-grandpa to Bailey. He treated Steph like a little princess every summer and the visions i have of him and aaron at the kitchen table listening to old country songs will stay with me the rest of my life. I really truly enjoy and cherish our times together and pulling away from his house to begin our trip back home is one of the most emotionally wrenching experiences that I have had to endure in my lifetime. I cant help but think that one of these times will be the last time that I will ever see him or sis again and it tears me apart inside. Its probably 60 miles down the road before the tears stop streaming down my cheek. I did make a point last week before I left to let him know that I love him and that along with my children and bailey that getting to know him again was one of the most important things to happen to me in my life. I'm glad I could tell him that so he knows.
Life deals us some strange hands and we have little choice except to play the cards we're dealt. I just wish my hands would have included more of Coach Smith, Uncle Dan and my Dad a little more often.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Taming a temper

It was summer 1975 or 76. I was around 11 or 12 and going into the 7th grade My mother had just married my stepfather, Chester Spring (my buddies in the neighborhood called him Chester the Molester cause he beat my ass pretty near every day till i was about 15-deservedly so btw)- Anyway, it was one of, if not the first, times he and I had been together and we all went fishing. Well, i dont recall exactly but something set me off and I was having one of my world-famous spoiled temper tantrums. Well, my dad (as I called him before too long- he adopted me when i was about 15) ripped his belt off and commenced to tearing my ass up telling me he's not going to have that kind of shit going on any more. It was a textbook ass-whoopin' and probably monumental in my life cause thats one of the first recollections I have of trying to control my temper. It has been pretty much a life-long battle of mine and to this day, I still struggle to control it. I wish i could say that I smarted up and that was the last of the behavior modification but those that know me know that I have a small almost unrecognizable stubborn streak in me that kept me hoppin on the end of that belt many many times over the next several years. He was extremely important in my developmental years and I cringe when I think of how I would have ended up without his intervention. But more on him down the line.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Open for Business

The inspiration for my entering blogdom today comes from several sources: middle age (soon to be 44), an impending doctor's appt. to discuss high blood pressure and my good friend Tiger's seemingly therapeutic (?) benefit from his own blog. Now understand I have virtually no experience with this blog stuff except reading my friend's on a daily basis so if along the way I commit some horrible blogging faux pax, I certainly wouldn't mind some guidance so feel free.

I have always been rather nostalgic and find myself drifting backwards in time when I hear some sort fo reference from music or TV or whatever. So what I intend to do is to record some history here and see where it goes. I find myself as time goes on forgetting some of the things that I have easily recalled in the past so maybe this will help reinforce things in my long term memory. If you were in college, this course would be The History of Rick Spring (1963- present); understanding of course that the classroom would be empty cause who would take such a course?, of course. Here's the 1st question that I offer: If you can remember a memory that you've forgotten, have you truly forgotten it????

In any case, I will post these on a semi-daily basis more or less as the occasion rises. Feel free to interact if the urge comes upon you but I do this mainly as a way to counteract the effects of my recently recognized mortality.