The other night I woke at 5:30 am—that liminal time where you still have one foot in a dream world—and a word appeared in front of me. I sat up straight in bed and knew I had to write it down, this gift from the dream-space. I googled the meaning, took a screen shot, and saved it in my phone.
I went back to sleep and upon fully waking vaguely remembered something about a word popping in my head. Aha, I had been clever enough to save it in my phone! There it was: sinew.
I’ve sat with this word the last 24 hours. I’ve let it accompany me on the comings and goings as we visit my in-laws for the week.
The other night, I heard someone rustling around in the kitchen before dinner. Iced tea had just been made. There was a click of a radio being turned on. For a moment I thought it was my own mother, summer tea in hand, small kitchen television turned to CNN.
It wasn’t my mother of course, but my mother-in-law. The ache that was lingering in the background, a sullenness that was a small throb, came right to the forefront. Oh, I miss my mother. Oh, I miss my father. I am not here to fill that space, though, I reminded the small child within me. This visit is for my daughter.
I am soaking in the joy of seeing her with grandparents, a grandfather who teaches her how to play “pea porridge pie” and explains to her the merits of free market capitalism. A grandmother who insisting on combing my daughter’s unwieldy hair and telling her, “ears are not just for listening, but for tucking hair behind!” Cousins who shoot nerf guns at her and share their bikes with her. Oh, this fills my heart. This is family. This is not my family, but it is family.
In the midst of all of this I thought about my word sinew. I read the definition. Deeply within, I fully understood why this word appeared before me in the early morning.
Tough fibrous tissue, uniting bone to bone, or muscle to bone. The thing that gives it strength or bind it together.
Alas, my family’s ties are sinew. The ties that currently feel stretched to their limit, so taut and fraught with tension you think, surely they must break, just might withstand the stress.
This sinew—this connective tissue, our shared DNA, the bonds that unite us bone to bone—are designed to bear it all, I am reminded. The stuff of survival, of ropes and weapons, they are resilient.
Like my family, the word is of Germanic origin.
As I sit in my in-law’s kitchen, I will observe the sinews of my husband’s family (not without its own bonds stretched tight in places, a good lesson to keep in mind.) And as I sit in the liminal space that is the uncertain relationship with my father, an in-between place of its own that is not what it was and not yet what it will become, I will close my eyes and clutch this word. sin·ew. Perhaps a whisper from the beyond that in the end, ties won’t break, and are stronger than they seem.