We are complete…the family is complete. As I walked into the room after the Christmas Tree was up and Sarah had completed the decorations, I got a little teary eyed. I had realized, this is the first Christmas with our complete family.
Looking back over the years, it is hard to find the right words to describe our path. We will have lived in our house 10 years this coming February, and these walls have seen so much change, so many stories, heard so many conversations, experienced so many trials and challenges…and here we are…the Rettew Five.
As a forty three year old father, husband, business owner, deacon, and Andersonian…I am not only thinking about my future but also trying to find more ways to live in the present. It was not long ago, I wrote about my fears as a older father finding himself at forty-three having twins; realizing that when the twins are twenty, I will experience my sixty-third birthday. My mother is sixty-three and I am forty three, she has been able to experience so much in life.
My mother has experienced having children starting at the age of twenty, watched my sister and I grow-up, go to school, college, have children and will be able to completely retire while traveling to enjoy her role as a grandmother. I see that experience and I have to admit, I am somewhat envious of her life path. She has worked hard for where she found herself in life.
It was just the other day, I was writing a video script for a brand launch, it involves the life of a nurse. As I began writing the script, I found myself completely immersed in detailing the experiences of my mother. There were two time periods that captured my memories, that captured my typing, that captured my storyboarding.
I remember birthday parties for my sister and I. She was always working crazy shifts as a floor nurse in a hospital and she was always having to find ways to maximize her time incorporating what we term as work-life balance. I remember her coming into the house with presents wrapped, a cake from the grocery store and as I looked, the presents did not have scotch tape, they had surgical tape. My mom is a utilitarian, a person who had to find ways to maximize her time to make the most of work yet giving the finest part of her heart to her children. She wrapped those presents with love and at the time, I was super confused by the surgical tape but now I find joy in those little details.
I remember when I was in high school waking up in the middle of the night to see the lights on downstairs. I would wonder my way downstairs to find my mother asleep on the couch with a book and papers open in her lap. She was studying. As a sophomore in high school, my mom was a senior at Clemson in nursing school. She was taking 24 hours to graduate and every moment counted. She was not only studying for good grades, but it was sheer determination to finish early so she could get back into a full time job to support her family.
My mom’s heart was complete, with determined love for her children. Everything she did was for her children from the late night studying to the surgical tape on the presents. I was so very fortunate to attend graduate school at the same time my mother was working on her masters. We both studied together at Clemson. I was working on my MA and she was working on her MS.
I seek the completeness with my family, to live in the moments, to create memories for my family that they can look back on and remember. Memories that showcase what it truly means to be complete.
My mother is now enjoying the fruits of her labor living life as a grandmother and I am trying to live in those moments, those complete moments. I realize I may not get to experience the same opportunity as my mother given our decision to start a family later in life. But these complete moments for her, I must embrace as my own as well.
Completeness for me is more than knowing that Sarah, Rosebud, George and Henry complete the Rettew Five…it is finding the ability to live in these moments.
I have watched my mother work so hard for so long achieving the goals that seemed so unattainable, breaking the glass ceiling, yet being more than a provider but a mother to her children. This is a tough act to follow, but I find completeness in my family, my Rettew Five knowing my mother has set the stage long ago for me embrace these moments in time.
As I write these words, and as I write the scripts describing the path of a nurse…I shed tears. I think about a quote from Women’s History Month, and it is this quote that brings resolve knowing that the foundation my mother laid for me provided the very completeness in the image of five stockings hanging on our mantle.
“Let us resolve to build on the progress won by the trailblazers of the past. We must carry forward the work of the women who came before us and ensure our daughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacles to their achievements, and no remaining ceilings to shatter.”
This quote showcases the work of the women like my mother, that she did everything in her power, while shattering those ceilings, to ensure her children had no obstacles to their achievements, including creating the opportunity for her children to create a lasting legacy to fulfill.
Completeness…for that I am grateful this holiday season.