In Defense of My Own Good Name

It has recently come to my attention that I am famous. In this month’s “Ensign” magazine,  an article was published by a certain “Rachel Cope” on the subject of an admired ancestor. (For the original article, and a much more uplifting message than this one, click here.)  I was slightly disturbed by how many people were hoodwinked by this imposter, especially considering that the article in question is written in nothing remotely like my own prose. In dread response, I offer the following:

Andrew James Cope: Demolitions Apprentice Extraordinaire


Defiant in the face of discipline and opposition, Andrew James Cope lived the way we all hope to live: carefree and full of shameless laughter.

Now in his 20th year, my brother Andrew James Cope has lived a full, happy life to date. In only just over 19 years, he has broken 16 windows, 17 toilets, at least one washing machine, and several doorjambs. He has filled heat vents with mysterious objects, destroyed formerly unstained, unsuspecting carpeting, and fed his shorts to the dog. He has also learned to cook, clean obsessively, flirt, and in general, delight all those who know him. Yes, in his few years, Andrew has mastered the art of living.

His Early Years

My brother Andrew was born to good, albeit slightly strange, stock. Both our parents are Mormons, returned missionaries, and we were raised strong in the Church. All of us remain active to this day, and Andrew’s most recent church assignment is a post as the ward paper-shredder, a task which he relishes with glee. He was born with Down Syndrome, several heart defects, and a wicked sense of humor. In his teens, he revealed signs of Autism, as well as demonstrating the family trait of creative household destruction.

In late 20th-century America, young women were particularly prone to fall head-over-heels for Andrew, giving in to his wiles and providing him with whatever he requested. I remember well the day he came home from preschool, having eaten an entire package of graham crackers. His aide apparently thought it was so adorable hearing him ask for “kah-koo”s that she couldn’t resist giving him another one every time. (How did he cram all that graham?)

Although Andrew participated actively in various therapeutic programs designed to get him up and moving, it took years before Andrew learned to walk. In the meantime, he wandered around the house on hands and knees, “leashed” to a cannula that would give the poor child whiplash whenever he reached the end of his tether. In time, our mother suddenly realized that he was being rushed from therapy to therapy so quickly that the poor kid’s feet never hit the ground; she cancelled all physical therapy appointments, and Andrew was walking within a month.

In time, Andrew developed a greater strength, became un-tethered from the oxygen tank, and celebrated his new-found freedom by flushing various objects down the toilet. Some of the lucky winners included pill bottles, razor blades, and in later years, bars of soap that would melt to fill any hole that might possibly be punched through with a drain snake.

Pleased with my brother’s ambition and genius, yet irritated that I so frequently had to help clean up after him, I found better outlets for his brilliant mind. Shortly after a trip to Disneyland, I quelled his constant begging for “Small World” by explaining to him the concept of money (and our lack thereof.) As the gears in his head clicked together, he excitedly got up and ran to his mother’s side, signing, “Mom – I want money.” For the following week, he did my chores for pittance sums. In time, however, inflation was inevitable, and his rates rose above that which I could afford. After a few years and a little help from my parents, he earned enough money for a return trip to Anaheim.

Commitment to Creative Demolition

Over the course of his years, Andrew rapidly became an expert at destroying a home. Bedroom doors were hooked closed behind us, lest he enter and rearrangethe belongings inside.

Potty-training was a 9-year process, filled with joyous discoveries about the absorbent qualities of Pull-Ups and the physics of ceiling fans. In time, it became easier to forego pants altogether, and the gullibility of  the common golden retriever came into play as pair after pair of underwear went mysteriously missing. It was about this time that our dog, Smedley, began demonstrating foul breath and a peculiar tendency to vomit.

Having placed toilet-training behind him, Andrew moved on to new heights: window smashing. Forging new frontiers, he used whatever medium struck his fancy: head, shoulders, knees, toes – it mattered not, so long as the crash was spectacular. The crash I was proudest of was accomplished with a flying Nintendo cartridge, and took a clean hole right out of the middle of a single-paned window.

Toilets were also going at an alarming rate in the Cope household, and personal belongings disappeared in U-bends, as well as into the vents of the air ducts. At one point, we rescued nearly every spoon in existence from the living room heat vent. Andrew sat by and laughed good-naturedly in a time-out.

Joys of Rivalry

In time, it became clear that my brother and I were a perfect team: both brilliant enough to come up with heinous mischief, but with a few subtleties thrown into the mix. I was older, more mature, surely would never encourage such irresponsibility. My brother was younger, had less impulse control, and while he seemed to connect cause-and-effect quite well when working with mechanical objects, no amount of discipline seemed to get a point across sufficiently. This meant that, if we played our cards right, no matter what happened, we would share the blame – he “didn’t know better,” and I “didn’t do it.”  For purposes of our own safety, the remainder of this paragraph falls under sway of the fifth amendment.

Moving On

In glorious conclusion, my brother Andrew has been the best thing to happen to me since my first 3 tiny years. In retrospect, I seem to remember having screamed and thrown horrible tantrums until he arrived, at which time I became the perfect child. I attribute my incredible success wholly to the arrival of my baby brother, and the glorious beginnings of an epic partnership. I love my brother dearly – and will never stop thanking God for him. ♥


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