My goal is to weed through the boxes that have been stacked and untouched in our storage unit for the past 6 years. I figure if I hadn’t had a reason until now to paw through anyone of them not marked photos or memories then they can be easily called unnecessary. Thumbing through some old writing assignments from my creative writing class in the late 1980’s I run across a paper which reads: Assignment: Clipping collection Radiation. What on this earth is this?

“My interest in radiation was aroused when I heard Linus Pauling speak shortly after he had been arrested for subversive activities.” I remember now, this is Lou’s story! I turn the page over to find the last letter I received from her. That’s Lou for you, recycling every piece of paper she could get her hands on! Lou was a mentor of mine who passed away peacefully in her sleep at the ripe old age of 89.

“You can make it work if you want,” Lou told me in truth, wheezing in between her words. She had been recently diagnosed with congestive heart failure but was trying meditation and acupuncture along with Ayurveda medicine, diet and herbs to rid herself if this disease. She always was a skeptic about western anything especially medicine. “Personally, I think you are ready to move on.”

I looked into the mirror at myself 40 years down the road. Our lives had unfolded similarly even up to my most recent crossroad. We had both tried to make a living from poetry and creative writing but found ourselves writing for newspapers and magazines to pay the bills. We both had travel fever and found it easier to travel half way around the world than to drive 2 hours for an overnight. Most importantly, we both loved India, considered ourselves expat’s and had married exotic men who both held Indian passports. The latter issue was the one that Lou was busy addressing and I knew she was right.

“When we had the School for the Little Ones in Bihar we were happy. Vivek and I had a common goal. We had broken the rules and married, he a Sikh and I, an American woman. Soon we would have children of our own but for now helped the poor village ones have an opportunity at an education. Our School for the Little Ones was started in Bihar which is the poorest state in India. I was a teacher, nurse and sometimes the only one that they had when their mothers and fathers were hauling pounds of bricks in head tarps to earn 5 rupees a day.”

Lou was 2 months pregnant when she and Vivek came to America for a better life for little ones of their own. But life did not go as planned as can often be the case. Lou miscarried in the second trimester which shocked her so much that she withdrew from life for 2 months. She got pregnant again after 4 months and yet again lost the second child this time at 6 weeks.

This is when the trouble began because not only was she to provide children for Vivek but she was to give him at least one son to carry on the family name. Vivek became weary and rather difficult to live with. America had lost its glitz and become a dark existence for him. He began to drink and gamble and look at younger women, girls who he thought fertile and readily able to give birth to not just one son but two or three. At this point Lou decided to move on which meant that Vivek could keep his green card but she would not consider her his wife. This cultural difference had been a knife in each of their hearts and consequently the twain never met.

Lou had been right, I also moved on. The letter I hold now in my fingers years later begins with “My Dear Friend Teri” and talks about more practical matters. “I have got a computer now and send email. Do you have an email address? Thank heavens for the computer because typewriter ribbons were always a pain in the ass for me! My son and daughter are now in Uzbekistan. Saw your friend, the abstract painter, the other day—she did not look well. Have you been back to Asia lately? I dream of going to Tibet!”

I remember I had just returned from 2 weeks in Kathmandu when I got this letter. I immediately dialed Lou but got a “this number has been disconnected” message. I called a mutual friend who confirmed what I already knew—Lou had passed on. I am planning a trip to Mt Kailash next year. I will take Lou with me in my heart. This letter I will file in box to keep, a box called memories.