In “Bond of Brothers: Connecting With Other Men Beyond Work, Weather and Sports,” author Wes Yoder strives to break down the stubbornly pervasive wall of masculine silence that seems to forbid whole generations of men from communicating with each other and their loved ones. Here's an excerpt.
Welcome to brothers who have been hurt by life, who are stuck and can’t quite figure out what to do next.
Welcome to fathers who want to leave an authentic spiritual and human legacy to their children and to the generations they foster.
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Welcome to men whose souls run deep but who seldom find the words or the way to say what they really think, feel, and believe to those they care about most.
Welcome to those who wish they could start a conversation with their dads and other men.
Welcome, also, to the women who are willing to listen, to those who want to better understand their men — their fathers, sons, friends, and husbands.
Welcome, especially, to those who have been crushed or betrayed by those you trusted most.
Think of this as your invitation to a new conversation.
Introduction: Give my daughter to one of us? Are you kidding?
A man giving his daughter to another man “as long as we both shall live” is a scandalous exchange. Pay for the wedding and lose the girl? What moron thought up that scenario?
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It’s all theory until it happens to you, but when it does, the shock evokes a deep silence shared by men around the world. It is a silence that reaches deep into the heart of what a father knows about himself and about other men, and he remembers more clearly at that moment what he was like in his youth than at any other time in his life. The memories can be frightening. Every man who knows himself knows all other men. It’s like reading a perfect stranger’s mail, whether you want to or not. When that young man asks for your daughter, you’d just rather not oblige him.
Maybe it’s primal fear, a refined survival instinct. Or that built-in paternal calculator that knows the sum of hundreds of wedding guests does not add up to another semester in Italy. Even so, it’s not about the money.
There is something unspeakably beautiful about having a daughter, something as tender as Mother Mary, to whom a rough-and-tumble man is invited. I’ll never forget that cool winter morning when the doctor announced Jenny’s arrival. “It’s a girl,” he said. “Are you sure?” I responded. I knew nothing about being a father to a little girl — only that it takes a tenderhearted man to be a good dad for a girl, and I was afraid I might not be gentle enough for what she really needed.
But she grew, and I grew, and somehow, by miraculous design, we waltzed through the years together. I taught her to ride her bike and to forgive a friend who hurt her — so they could remain friends. I helped her with homework and taught her to learn things she thought too difficult for her, talked to her about boys, and all through her junior high and high school years cooked breakfast for her and for her brother. What’s a dad to do to spend time with modern kids?
I built her a barn and fenced the pasture for “Sugar,” the Christmas horse she got when she was ten. We mucked the stalls together, and when she was seventeen, I held her hand and led that silly horse across the meadow for the last time, crying like a baby, with Jenny comforting me of all ridiculous things. “The horse helped me be a better father,” I told her. “That’s OK, Daddy,” she said. “We’ll find other things to do together.” We hoped Sugar would be the grace that drew another father and daughter closer.
In my religious tradition and in many others, the father is the spiritual leader of the family. It is his honor and privilege to provide shelter and wisdom in the storms of life and to exhibit the love his family needs so that his children will not run to the arms of others to explore love (or some poor substitute) too early. Then, on some bright, sunshiny day, if he has a daughter, it falls on his shoulders to give her graciously into the arms of her beloved in front of God, the relatives, and the entire watching world.
It’s not as easy as it looks. Nor is it easy to talk about, especially when no man before you or near you has spoken a word of what it was like for him.
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The guy gets the girl. What a happy day — and he won’t think another thought about what it cost her father to give her to him until it is his turn, his daughter, and his guts on the line. The most I got from one friend, a writer, on what it was like for him was one word — frightening —and an unintelligible grunt from another. I now understand both the word and the grunt. My dad told me later that even though he liked my sister’s fiancé, he walked her to the altar (rhymes with slaughter) as slowly as he could. So did I.
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Given that most men are not really talking to each other about much of anything that matters these days, is it surprising that they are not talking about one of the most significant things a man can ever do? In that one highly symbolic and sacred moment for which there are no words, I placed my daughter’s hand into the hand of the man she loves and stood down as her primary spiritual adviser “for better or for worse,” thereby establishing my legacy and her welfare and, in many respects, setting the course of her life.
Jenny was radiant, shining like an angel. Early in the evening on a perfect summer day, in the meadow where she played for almost as long as we can remember, we stood together one final moment while the music played. And then I did what a man does when he stands with his daughter before God and the man she loves. I did it smiling, knowing, believing, and hoping: I gave my flesh and my blood to one of us.
Consider it no small thing what one man is asked to do for another. May God help us!
Excerpt from “Bond of Brothers: Connecting With Other Men Beyond Work, Weather and Sports” by Wes Yoder. Copyright © 2010 Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.
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