This last week has been a difficult one for me to grasp and hold real. It all involved one of my favorite families in the world. The Christoffs.
Peter Christoff: the studliest of studs. He is about 45 years young. His family is his first priority. He works hard without ever muttering a complaint. Selflessness defines his character. He is a lover. Not a fighter. He gives to any one he comes in contact with. When I think of him, the word idol pops in my head.
Then there is Allyson. She radiates beauty from within. She has taught me more life lessons then she will ever know. She is a true Christian. Giving and complimenting at every opportunity. Hard working. She would take a bullet for anyone in her family. She is a rational thinker. Hesitant, but very intelligent. Mother.
Then there is Maddison. Hockey player. Yes, a female hockey player and no she is not a lesbian. She is the comedian of the family. She is genuine. She is more mature than any other 18 year old I have ever met. Confident. A person whom every one adores and wants to get to know. Loyal through thick and thin.
And last we have Alec. Also a hockey player. Much like his mother, he is a care-taker. He is a hard worker and very intelligent. He smiles while doing tasks and cares for every one else but himself. Many friends flock to him for advice. Athlete to the bone. Talented in more ways than he knows. Ladies man and gentleman. He seems like he has it all figured out for a 17 year old.
There's some prior background. This story all starts out with a 37 year old HR director of Gastronomy. Allyson didn't necessarily believe in love. Her best friend and father passed away when she was 17 and she truly believed that if she let herself get close to someone, they would die or leave her in the dust. She spent years in therapy hoping to learn how to let go and move on from her father's death. Being a natural care-taker, she helped raise her nieces and nephews (such as myself) and would take any opportunity to be with them, even though it hurt her inside that she didn't have any children of her own. One day, at work, she glanced outside to a 6'2" man with smooth jet black hair step off his motorcycle. You know, the kind of scene you would see in a 1970's romantic film. She was in trouble. He came in and applied to be a server and she instantly hired him. You could say, it was love at first sight even though she would never admit it. Long rides on his motorcycle turned in to evening dates. Evening dates turned in to meeting the families. Meeting the families eventually turned in to a a big fancy wedding. Allyson was 38 at the time. Her hope for marriage finally came true. Peter, who is 9 years younger, swept her off her feet.
They then started a family and were hospitable to all who needed it. Growing up, my parents were busy with starting various businesses that I often spent my weekdays surrounded by my favorite aunt and uncle with their two children (who became my best friends.) Years passed and his job took him across many international and domestic borders. They moved to Boston for 6 years and then moved to San Francisco where they have resided ever since. You may remember from previous posts that I often visit them. In fact, I spent a whole summer living with them and growing spiritually and emotionally. They nurtured me and continue to do so to this day. They are amazing. All four of them.
So on to the story. I am very close with each of them. I talk to them just about every other day. We Skype, Facetime, Text, E-mail, and spend countless hours conversing on the phone. When I face a dilemma, my aunt is the first person I call. Her wisdom and advice exceeds my expectations and she knows just what to say. Well a year ago, Peter got a job opportunity in Canada that he couldn't refuse. He had hit his limit in San Francisco and wanted something new. He took it even though the family wasn't quite ready for it. My aunt supported him in this even though her heart belonged in San Francisco. He began commuting there until they found a perfect home. Months passed, and tensions grew within their marriage. Allyson has never had perfect health, and Peter was always there by her bedside regardless of what his schedule consisted of. When Peter would arrive home, Ally had long lists of chores that he needed to do that she couldn't accomplish with her health. He began to dread coming home. This then created more complications in their marriage. BUT THEY'RE IN LOVE, RIGHT? Nothing could ever go wrong! They were perfect for each other. Admiring them that one Summer, gave me hope for the rest of my life! Maybe love did exist. I wanted to believe in it so badly and Peter and Ally were perfect for each other.
Peter never found that perfect house. He stopped looking. Peter's calls became less frequent. Peter's visits home became more scarce. Peter's character became more dim. Peter's voice was more cold. Peter just wasn't the same.
December came and Peter told Allyson that he wanted a divorce, just days before her birthday. This was a bomb. Like the bomb that hit Hiroshima. It was unexpected. It exploded beneath her feet and she couldn't quite re-group herself and find her balance. She spent days in her bed, ignoring loving phone calls from family. Her wine intake had increased. She wanted to be numb. How could the love of her life want to leave? That would never happen. The word divorce wasn't even in her vocabulary. They could work through this. With therapy and work, they could do this. Peter then came home for the holidays. No one expected it. He came home with a happy facade that they were still that perfect family that so many looked up to. He answered the phone with that chipper voice and asked questions as if he truly cared. . . but why?
While I was working on the 23rd of December, the vibrations on my phone kept going off in my right pocket. I am not supposed to have my phone while working on the sales floor, but I always did. and I am glad I did.
I then looked down when no one was looking. 5 missed calls from Maddison. My throat tightened a bit. I walked to the office and called her back. The sounds of when she answered are indescribable. I couldn't understand a word that was coming out of her mouth. Her voice was weak and her loud sobs made me cry. "Maddie! What's wrong? You're alright. Just breathe. Take deep breathes. Everything's going to be alright," I uttered in disbelief. "He's gone. I picked up my mom from her massage appointment with Alec and he is gone. He wrote me an e-mail that explains it all, but he just left. Without saying a word. Two days before Christmas." It was then, my heart cracked and I couldn't believe what I was hearing. This was a joke, right? This could never happen to the Christoffs. Their life was too perfect. They had it all. They had the cute little house with the red door. The perfect dog that barked when you came home. The manicured garden that depicted perfectness. They drove the perfect black cars and had the perfect neighbors.
So they drove through the night from San Francisco to Salt Lake City, with their weeping mother in the back seat. The drive took them 12 hours just to be surrounded by loved ones on Christmas.
Christmas was a whole lot different this year. My immediate family had such an awesome Christmas. One of the best in years. We all learned the spirit of giving rather than receiving. My weekend was spent with my close cousins comforting them in their time of need. Giving them words of encouragement because my parents divorced not too long ago.
So you know what the moral of this story is? No one is perfect. You can look at someone and admire their life because you think it may be perfect. When in reality, everyone has their flaws. Every one has their various trials in life. And you know what I have learned? God doesn't give any of us more than we can handle. Family is so important. I am blessed to have one that is so supportive of all I do even though we may all be a little dysfunctional. I learned this Christmas that I am blessed and I don't thank God enough for all that I have. Every day, I live a life I should be proud of. So tell your families you love them during this season. Give thanks to your parents for how they raised you.