Let Me Let Go
My grandfather’s frail hands cradled “Jocko,” the wind-up toy he had kept since childhood. The macaque’s fur had fallen out in patches, and the paint was thin and stripped. Cracked cymbals set precariously in its toy fingers, ready to drop at any moment, and the once red boots it wore had faded to brown-orange.
Gripping the hospital bed’s railing, Grandpa grunted as he strained to shift to one side to face me, a great smile carving grooves in his face as he wound Jocko. The key turned with slow, systematized clicks, reminding me of a ticking clock. Gingerly, he set it on the glossy overbed table that had already been cleared of his lunch. With a nudge, springs and gears cranked. The fuzzy monkey clattered as it shuffled to the edge of the table, beating tin cymbals, until it jerked to a stop. His smile faded.
I reached for the toy.
He placed his trembling hand over mine.
“You don’t want me to wind it again?”
“I want you to remember how it fought against its rusted gears to make this short journey. Remember the sound of its tiny cymbals and its wild grin.”
“But it makes you so happy. Maybe we can let it have just one more run.” I pulled to escape his calloused grip to again try and take the toy, but he clasped my hand in both of his.
“Let it be.”
“We can wind it again.”
He shook his head solemnly, glancing once at the monitors that beeped ever slower around him.
“Grandpa, I wish we had more time.” Tears wet my cheeks.
“Don’t speak of death. It is such a heavy word. I’m not going to die.” He nodded to the toy macaque, another smile creasing his apple-crisp face and deepening laugh-lines. “Like old Jocko here, people just stop.” His eyes met mine. They were dilated but filled with peace. “And it takes effort to not wind them again.”