Chapter 09: Magic and Loss
“There’s a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out.”—Lou Reed
Sookie squeezed Eric’s hand tightly as they entered the small hospital room, which was full of various machines. Immediately, a tear slipped down her cheek as she saw Gran lying in the midst of those machines. Adele, who had always been so full of life, now looked small and frail.
“Gran?” Sookie said, a bit uncertainly as she approached.
The elderly woman’s eyes slowly opened and then took a few moments longer to focus.
“Sookie,” came her weak voice. “Eric,” she smiled a little before she frowned. “I must look a fright.”
“You look beautiful, Adele,” Eric said.
“Gran,” she said. “It’s about time you started calling me Gran.”
“You look beautiful, Gran,” Eric repeated, even as Sookie took her grandmother’s hand.
Adele looked up at Sookie. Her words came slowly, but there was still humor behind them. “You’d better keep hold of this one. He knows how to flatter and obey. Not many men can do those things these days,” she chuckled to herself, which caused her to cough.
Halleigh appeared out of nowhere to give Adele a drink of water through a straw.
The elderly woman nodded her thanks to the nurse.
“Gran, I . . . ,” Sookie started before more tears began to fall from her eyes.
“It’s alright, darlin’,” Adele said in a soft voice. She continued, still slowly, but with a strength that seemed to be coming from beyond her body. “I know. Dyin’ right now is a shock to me too. I wish I would have lived to see you two have babies.” She closed her eyes and smiled as if she had a secret. “But I can imagine them already. Blonde and tall and beautiful. And if they inherit even a fraction of the kindness and smarts that you two have in spades, they’ll be somethin’ real special. I just wish I could have stuck around long enough to meet them.”
“You will meet them,” Sookie said insistently. “You’ll get better. The doctors say that you can have another surgery tomorrow, and they’ll fix you right up.”
Adele opened her eyes and looked at Sookie lovingly. “I think my body’s a little too tired for that, my sweet, sweet Sookie, but you and your Eric here have given me such wonderful memories in the last year of my life.” She sighed. “It seems your granddaddy’s just tired of waitin’ for me. And—to be honest—I’m lookin’ forward to bein’ with him too.”
Adele motioned for some more water, and—again—Halleigh was silently there, doing her best for her patient.
“Oh, Gran,” Sookie said as she buried her face into her grandmother’s hand.
“I won’t tell you not to cry for me,” Adele said, her voice a little less scratchy than before. “God knows, I’ve cried enough in my life to fill an ocean. But I will tell you that I don’t want you to mourn for me too much, Sookie. You’ve been sad for far too long in your life as it is, and it’s high time for you to be happy.”
“Oh, Gran,” Sookie repeated.
Adele continued, her voice low, as if she were looking back into her memories. “I’ve lived a mighty fine life. And I got to spend most of it with my soul mate. We raised a family together. I just wish that I’d done better by you and Hadley,” she sighed. “Those are my regrets.”
“Don’t say that,” Sookie said. “You saved me, Gran. You gave me a life!”
Gran coughed a little and squeezed Sookie’s hand as much as she could. “I should have done more—much sooner—to make sure you were okay. I just didn’t know . . . ,” she said, coughing again.
Once more, Halleigh was unobtrusively waiting to offer Adele a sip of water.
“It’s okay, Gran,” Sookie insisted. “You saved me,” she said again. “You made it so I could hear again. You gave me a home and love and support. Without you in my life, I’d still be just a shell. Without you, I wouldn’t have gone to college or to New York. I wouldn’t have found Eric.”
Gran smiled. “You have such a good heart, Sookie. And all I want for you is to have a happy life.” She looked up at Eric and then back at Sookie. “Will you let me speak to your young man for a moment, sweetheart?”
Sookie wiped her eyes. “Okay,” she said a little uncertainly.
Adele looked up at Halleigh. “Will you go with my granddaughter? Maybe get her and Eric some coffees.”
“Ever the hostess,” Eric said softly, bending down and kissing Adele lightly on the forehead from where he was standing next to Sookie.
Adele smiled weakly at him. “I might be dyin’, but that’s no excuse for bad manners,” she winked at him, which elicited a little sob from Sookie.
“Don’t go far,” Adele said to Sookie. Halleigh handed Eric the water cup and then quietly left the room with Sookie.
Adele looked at Eric seriously. “I feel myself fadin’ away more and more every second, but I have some unfinished business, and since you’re in business, I thought we ought to talk alone for a moment.”
“Okay,” Eric said. He couldn’t help but to smile at the still-feisty Adele as he gave her a sip of water.
“I can tell that you and Sookie have all the love in the world for each other. I hope you know how rare that is.”
“I know,” Eric answered honestly as he took Adele’s hand. “I know.”
“Promise me that you’ll make her happy.”
“I will,” Eric swore. “I’ll move heaven and earth to see her smile.”
“Good man,” Adele said with a weary sigh. “You are plannin’ to marry her—right?”
“Yes,” Eric said without hesitation. “As soon as I can.”
Adele laughed a little. “I’m glad. You both deserve love—and peace.” She coughed again, this time more harshly.
“Should I get Sookie?” Eric asked. “The nurse?”
“Not quite yet,” Adele said, motioning for another drink. She was silent for a few moments as she seemed to be storing up enough energy to continue speaking. Once again, she looked like she was pulling her strength from a source beyond herself. “I need to tell you some things,” she finally said. “Just you—for now.”
“Okay,” Eric agreed.
“First, I want you and Sookie to stay at my house while you’re here. Otherwise, I’m afraid that viper of a mother of hers will swoop in and clear everything out, and I wanna make sure my granddaughters—both Sookie and Hadley—get anything they want in the house.”
Eric nodded. “Done. Michelle won’t get her hands on anything.”
“Good boy,” Adele said with a devilish smirk before motioning for Eric to come closer; he bent down a little.
“Under my bed is a loose board,” Adele said quietly. “Under it, there’s a box that contains all the love letters my Earl ever wrote to me. I’d like to be buried with those.”
“Of course,” Eric said, his voice full of emotion.
“Love letters are a beautiful thing for a woman to get, Eric. You remember that!” she ordered, though the effort of doing so was clearly taxing for her.
“I will.” Eric couldn’t help but to marvel at Adele’s continued strength of will and her fire as he gave her another drink.
“There’s also a ring in the box with the letters. It’s in an envelope with a letter of its own. The ring has been passed down in the Stackhouse family for generations and generations. Iris, my Earl’s mother, was the last to wear it. But my finger was too damned fat to wear it after her—without the necessary alterations doin’ it harm.” Adele paused and motioned for another drink. After a few moments, she continued. “But Sookie’s fingers are slim and elegant, just like Iris’s. Now—it’s an old ring, and the center stone in it was taken out to be buried with Iris, but it’s still the most valuable thing in the Stackhouse family.”
She coughed again.
“Maybe you should rest for a while,” Eric said softly.
Adele shook her head. “Soon I’ll be restin’ forever. This time I’ve been given—this time with you and Sookie—it’s a gift I don’t plan on wastin’.”
Eric nodded and gave her another drink.
“That ring—the Stackhouse ring—is bound with a lot of love, Eric,” Adele conveyed. “And the letter gives its history. Make sure Sookie knows that history one day. You’ll know when the time’s right.”
“I will,” Eric promised.
“Did you know that my Earl’s parents lived happily together for more than fifty years?”
“No,” Eric shook his head as he gave Adele another drink.
The elderly woman smiled. “Earl always said that they never spoke a single cross word to each other, and I was able to see for myself how much they loved one another—right up to the end. The way that Iris and Finn looked at each other is the same way that you and Sookie look at each other—like you’re swept away.”
She half-sighed and half-coughed before she continued—her voice clearly weakening. “I loved my Earl with all my heart, and I truly think of him as my soul mate, but even we didn’t have that kind of sweeping love.”
She coughed again, and he gave her more water.
“I need you to promise me that you’ll hold onto the love you have for my granddaughter—always.”
“With both hands until the day I die,” he swore. “Always.”
She smiled at him. “I know you’re rich, Eric, but I’d like for you to take the Stackhouse ring, put a new stone into the heart of it, and give it to Sookie when you officially ask for her hand. I want you to tell her the ring’s story, and I want you to tell her how much I approve of you two gettin’ married.”
I tear rolled down his cheek. “Thank you, Gran. I will.”
Gran smiled and sighed with relief—as if the last task that was troubling her was done. “I’d like to see Sookie again, but I need you to stay by her side. It won’t be long now,” she said tiredly.
“I’ll get her,” Eric said as he bent down and gave the woman another kiss on her forehead.
“Oh—and you’ll be sure to tell Elsa goodbye for me. And tell her I’m sorry we never got to paint up New Orleans together,” she added with a fading smile.
Eric nodded and brushed away another tear as he went to get his beloved.
Gran weakened in noticeable stages over the next hour as her coughing increased and her ability to speak decreased, but she didn’t sleep. Eric recognized that Gran was fighting for every remaining minute of her life—and fighting to stay awake to enjoy those minutes.
Finally, Halleigh had to put a large oxygen mask over Adele’s nose and mouth, in addition to the tube that had already been in her nose.
After that, Gran motioned for the mask to be taken off occasionally and talked in spurts as she could—mostly about Earl and about how proud she was of Sookie and Eric. At about 11:00 p.m., Hadley arrived at the hospital, but because of her HIV viral count, she wasn’t allowed back into the ICU. Her husband, Remy Savoy, came in with a cute swaddled infant so that Adele could see her great-grandchild for a final time, and Remy said a short farewell on Hadley’s behalf before taking a message to Hadley from Adele. Jason was invited in next, while Eric and Sookie stayed in the nurse’s lounge so that they wouldn’t have to go back into the waiting room with Michelle. At five minutes until midnight, Sookie and Eric went back into Adele’s room.
By then, Gran needed the oxygen mask all the time, but she gestured for Sookie to come closer and to take off the mask for just a moment. She whispered a final “I love you,” and then slipped into sleep with a serene look on her face.
Not ten minutes later, Adele Stackhouse slipped away from the world, and—if the prayers of those in the room were answered—right into the arms of her waiting Earl.
A/N: Hello all. Many thanks for the reviews for the previous chapter. I’m sort of at a loss for words after editing this chapter. It always makes me cry.
In so many ways, the story dictated that Gran die at this point. Her death will set certain things into motion—some bad and some good. But—most importantly—Gran’s death in the books is a major turning point for Sookie. Or—it could have been. I actually believe that Sookie suppresses her grief (and guilt) over Gran, which eventually leads to all kinds of problems for Sookie, including her inability to “give herself to love” after Bill. In this story, I wanted to give Sookie the chance to do something that Gran would have wanted: to grow and become stronger because of the loss, to recognize that the strength within her grandmother had passed along to her in fundamental and profound ways. And—perhaps most importantly—to learn that she is capable of surviving great loss with her “personhood” intact. She will need all of these lessons.
That said, I already miss Gran. I usually “pick up” the TB/SVM narrative after Gran’s death, though she figures into the Back and Forth universe a little bit. But in Comfortably Numb and here, I got to delve into her character more, and it was wonderful (especially when she was “cutting up” with Elsa). Many thanks to Charlaine Harris for creating Adele Stackhouse and for the beautiful Lois Smith for bringing her to life.
I plan on one more chapter this week. (It used to be attached to this one, but I wanted to give Gran a proper coda, so it is now separate.) Since it’s a bit shorter than usual, I should be able to have it to you on Monday or Tuesday.