Don’t Let the Monsters Win

Nelson fights the baddies.  I think he got ’em that day.
Monsters are real, ghosts are real too.  They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.

-Stephen King

Hurt is a universal feeling.  We are all people grieving.  To fight for the weak is also a universal feeling; for those who have not dulled their feelings.  There is a battle cry between good and evil.  Can you hear it?

I find few things more infuriating and arrogant than a person who hurts another person just because they can.  Especially someone physically or emotionally weaker.

The Colorado shooting news came within days of another terrible revelation.  A childhood friend of mine was arrested on 4 counts of rape, kidnapping, and other charges.  I close my eyes and shake my head.  I think of his mother.  I don’t understand.

These tragedies coincide as I am deep into my manuscript editing, writing about Gaysie Cutter.  She is my transitional character. 

“A transitional character is… one who, in a single generation, changes the entire course of a lineage. The individuals who grow up in an abusive, emotionally destructive environment and who somehow find a way to metabolize the poison and refuse to pass it on to their children. They break the mold. They refute the observation that…’the sins of the fathers are visited upon the heads of the children…’ Their contribution to humanity is to filter the destructiveness out of their lineage so that generations downstream will have a supportive foundation upon which to build productive lives.” –(Broderick, 1988, Marriage and Family, p.14)

Carlfred Broderick, a 20th-century psychologist and family therapist, is given credit for being the first to define “transitional character.” He died in 1999, the same year my Cope was born.
I think about Carlfred a lot. Not just because he had a funny name, but because growing up, Carlfred was a like another member of the family.  My mother was getting her Ph.D. in Family Studies/Parenting and she was super duper excited about all the information and theories she was learning about.  Her thesis was, “Why Teenagers Don’t Have Sex.”  My mother learns by talking, so I heard a lot of discourses on why I didn’t want to have sex as a teenager.  She probably thought we were never listening, always interrupting, “Hey mom, can you pass the milk?  Did you say something about sex? bye.”

Carlfred was someone my mother quoted like, all the time.  She will be so pleased to know I heard and remembered something about dear Carlfred. 

My mother wasn’t abused as a child, but she had light bulb moments when she understood she could change things in her life she didn’t want to pass down to her children.  To use an oft-quoted light bulb moment: “Ah-ha!  Bacon is not a food group.”  She and my father could create their very own family culture (though we still eat bacon.) They could have their own rules, traditions, patterns, and habits. Her parents were great people, but she didn’t have to be exactly like them or do everything they did.  Ah-ha! We are not robots.

And thus, dear readers, you are witnessing her final product in all the bloggy details – ta dah – ME!  Is this not exciting?
Carlfred, as usual, floated through my mind with the terrible news week. Thank goodness the Olympics are here.  We need stories of heroism, bravery, and discipline.  Please save the doping stories for another week.  The only thing I know about the Colorado shooter is from a headline; that he was studying neuroscience.  I found this interesting as I too, love the brain.  He must have been very smart.  Maybe he even had flashes of brilliance.  I can’t pretend to know what was going through his mind, but I wonder, what would Carlfred say?

My childhood friend has been arraigned and arrested.  He has not been found guilty, but the case is strong.  And unfortunately, I am very sad but I am not absolutely shocked.  His father was not a good man.  Evil exists.  It is very real.  This man, my friend’s father, hurt his children and nows lives in prison for the rest of his life.  I didn’t know until college, when his children, including my friend, came forward and told.  Thank you, thank you, for telling!  That revelation was shocking.  It changed me just a little bit.  It hurt.  And it scared me.  That I had believed in a fake.

This is the kind of news that makes us a little less trusting.  We begin to see the world less like innocent, hopeful children do.  It can jade us.  It is the kind of shock that scares, creates pessimism.  What a terrible thing to do to a child.

Despite the terrible acts against him, I was happy to see that my friend had seemingly overcome.  He’d become successful.  That terribly smart, awkward, annoying, kid had gone on a service mission, went to college, received an MBA, married.

But the monster came.  The sins of the father visited.  The childhood friend I used to know is now a grown man facing life sentences for hurting someone the way he was hurt.  Why do we repeatedly do what has been done to us?

Everything he purportedly stood for; family, religion, country.  It all gets washed down the drain.  He will only be remembered for his crimes.

I don’t hate him.  I try hard not to judge him.  Some day I’ll be judged too.  No one really gets let off the hook.  Even when they aren’t caught.  Everyone will pay the piper.  I do feel compassion because I knew the boy.  But I want to shake the man, rub away all the muck, yuck, horrible skin he acquired, peer into his eyes and say, Oh, there you are.  I remember you.

When you spend enough time with someone, you think you know them, don’t you?  But then sometimes, your friends or family do something so shocking, that wild card of unpredictability is dealt and you think, where did that come from?  Were there signs? Even if there are signs, don’t we all hope the odds can be beat?

I’m sad for the boy who couldn’t be the transitional character Carlfred wrote about.  I am sad for the women who are more fearful for predators like him.  He could have been the one who changed the course of a lineage.  Don’t we all have a great destiny to fulfill?  That, perhaps is what is saddest of all.  He could have been so much more.

It would be far more heart-wrenching for me, to lose my son committing a horrific crime, then the son who died heroically.  The former would break me into very small pieces.

We all have the potential to be wildly and unpredictably evil.  We also have the potential to be the one who rises out of the ashes and shows the world, beauty. There is light, there is darkness.  We all choose.  Inspire us please…don’t let the monsters win.


5 thoughts on “Don’t Let the Monsters Win


    I’m terribly sorry to hear about your friend. How awful. The Colorado shooting is yet another mind-boggling incident I will never understand. I always ask, where the heck are the parents? Even when perpetrators, monsters are older and have children of their own, I still believe in asking, where are the parents?

  2. kimmalee

    So well-put, as usual. I’m sorry to hear about your friend. That’s so awful. Seeing the naked evil in the world is harder now that i’m a mom. I fear for my kids. I don’t ever want them to be the victim of some evil monster, and I can’t imagine how horrible it would be if they chose to be the evil monster. I’d never stop wondering what I could have done differently. I, too, am very glad that the olympics are on TV now! We need a little inspiration around here.

  3. annewoodman

    Wow, Amy, this was such a touching and revealing blog post. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I share your desire to fight against the forces of evil.

    I am sorry to hear about your friend. I can’t imagine how you must be feeling.

    I had a good friend who went through things no woman should have to go through, and the way she (unfortunate that this has to happen sometimes) has chosen to become a transitional character is to not have children. She was fearful that what happened to her would happen to her children. So sad.

    On a happier note, I enjoyed hearing about your mom and your family’s experiences as she studied. Sounds like she was a profound influence on your life.

  4. Melissa Sarno

    Thank you for sharing this story and telling me about Calfred and transitional characters. I love this idea of breaking the mold, changing the course of the future in that way. I’m sorry to hear about your friend and the people he hurt 🙁


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