Category Archives: Republic of Letters

Upon losing a beloved father

Thomas Munro Jr.

Spirit of Cecilia

By RIchard K. Munro

My father and me at our wedding on St. Columba’s Day June 9, 1982. I am wearing Auld Pop’s Munro tartan tie. I still have it and the tie my father was wearing that day.
The ladies to my father’s left are my mother, Ruth L. Munro and in the back Juanita Donado Perez my beloved mother in law. A grand lady and like my grandmother lost her husband when very young (at age 26). My wife was like my mother “the widow’s curly haired daughter who was the loveliest of the throng.”

I know what it is to love a father and to lose a father.

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.” is an old Irish saying.

NE OBLIVISCARIS..DO NOT FORGET.

People you love never die entirely. They live in your mind in, the way…

View original post 2,556 more words

THE TRUE LIFE OF A LANGUAGE

“I can skirt the boundary of Italian, but the interior of the language escapes me. I don’t see the secret pathways, the concealed layers. The hidden levels. The subterranean part. At Hadrian’s Villa, in Tivoli, there is a gigantic network of streets, an impressive and imposing system that is entirely underground. This complex of passages was dug to transport goods, servants, slaves. To separate the emperor from the people. To hide the real and unruly life of the villa, just as the skin hides the unsightly but essential functions of the body. At Tivoli I understand the nature of my Italian project. Like visitors to the villa today, like Hadrian almost two millennia ago, I walk on the surface, the accessible part. But I know, as a writer, that a language exists in the bones, in the marrow. That the true life of the language, the substance, is there.”

In Other Words, Jhumpa Lahiri

Science Fiction and the University of Chicago ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Bitterly, C.M. Kornbluth, the second presenter, vehemently disagreed, stating without equivocation that the genre “is not an important medium of social criticism.” Much like Hitler, Kornbluth complained, the adherents of science fiction treat the genre like a religion and lay claim to anything and everything they admire. Yet, for all its pretentions, science fiction rarely if ever actually criticizes anything prevalent in the world, and, when it does, its criticism remains rather tame. Anticipating the social radicals of a decade later, Kornbluth feared that science fiction fails in its power to change the consciousness of a reader, as the novels of the genre do “not turn the reader outward to action but inward to contemplation.” Then, he complained, there’s the horror genre, a supposed subset of science fiction which merely rolls all of our fears “up in one ball of muck” and thrusts “them into the reader’s face.” This is especially true in cinema, he continued, and “if the day ever comes when the shriek movie is a really major type, up there with, say the pretentious Western, the implications for the future of democracy will be bad.” Yet, one should never give any of this too much thought, he concluded, for “science fiction is socially impotent.” Tragically, Kornbluth died a year later, of a heart attack, only age 34.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/05/science-fiction-university-chicago-bradley-birzer.html

Searching for Mother in Peter Pan’s Neverland | The American Conservative

This prompts some new thoughts during her bedtime story session, in which she tells her own story, about a mother’s love and “the feelings of the unhappy parents with all of their children flown away.” Peter hates this story, but listens anyway. Wendy’s autobiographical tale features her own mother leaving open the window for her children to fly back into the house and ends with a happy reunion. Peter declares Wendy to be “wrong about mothers,” recounting his own story of finding the window barred upon his return after a long absence, “for my mother had forgotten all about me, and there was another little boy sleeping in my bed.” This tale frightens Wendy’s brothers, who then beg to go home. The Darling children have lost track of time and of their own identities. They must return home immediately. The Lost Boys, having now experienced a mother’s love and care, try all manner of threats and pleas to keep Wendy from leaving.

As they exit the underground lair, the children and Wendy are captured by the pirates. Hook proceeds with the “princely scheme” to force the children to walk the plank and then make Wendy the pirate mother. Offering words of farewell to the boys, she declares: “These are my last words, dear boys . . . . I feel that I have a message to you from your real mothers, and it is this: ‘We hope our sons will die like English gentlemen.’” These final words impress even the pirates, who declare they also will do what their mothers hope. Smee tries to bargain with Wendy. He will save her if she will promise to be his mother. “‘I would almost rather have no children at all,’ she said disdainfully.”
— Read on www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/searching-for-mother-in-peter-pans-neverland/

LOVE, MARRIAGE, FRIENDSHIP and THE FINAL PARTING

By Richard K. Munro

“I am” is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that “I do” is the longest sentence?”
George Carlin

  1. John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman / “My One and only Love”
In memoriam: Mrs. T.

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: “To love is good, too: love being difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.” Victor Hugo wrote: “When you shall have learned to know, and to love, you will still suffer. The day is born in tears. The luminous weep, if only over those in darkness.” On March 31,2020, the much beloved wife of a Terry Teachout died. She had been very sick and recently had had major surgery. She did not die of coronavirus though these are time of plague and death and people are painfully separated from loved ones and sometimes these same loved ones are snatched away. Terry wrote, very movingly, “To lose the love of your life at the very moment when you expected her to be saved is painful beyond words, beyond belief, beyond understanding. To be comforted as I have been comforted is…well, it, too, “passeth all understanding.” I wrote to him “My dear fellow you have my sincerest condolences. ‘six angels at her back, two to sing, and two to pray and two to carry her soul away.’ May God bless you both and let it be a comfort you knew true love this side of paradise. Requiescat in pace domine T. (Mrs. T) Pax vobicum. Ave et vale.” Events like these remind us that no one is untouched by human tragedy. Yet the story of Mr. and Mrs. T. also reminds us that love is the raison d’ etre of our brief lives on earth. Many cling to a low level of consciousness and selfishness and they seek only hedonist pleasures, fleeing from pain and difficulties. Brave Terry Teachout is that leal n’ true mon, a good husband -a mensch-who stayed to know and cherish true love until the very end despite every difficulty. What a great example he is to us all. My parents were also an example to me; they were married for 59 1/2 years separated only by war and death. I only vaguely understood what love was as a young man but over the years I slowly began to understand love more deeply and broadly. I knew love was good but how to find it and how to keep it and make it grow?

As a very young boy I heard the word “divorced” at elementary school. I had never heard it before. I imagined it meant something like giving Christ a poke with a spear; it was after all “the vorced”( worst). At home I had never heard this d-word but I was ashamed to ask at school because everyone else seemed to know what it was. But I knew it was bad. No kid ever smiled saying, “Hey, guess what kids? My parents are divorced!” As soon as I came home I asked Auld Pop, my Scottish grandfather, what this strange dark utterance was and what it could mean. He looked at me with surprise, paused a moment and answered, “Dinna worry aboot thAAt, laddie! That’s something they do in Amerrrica! Aye!” But I was confused,and said, “But, Pop, we ARE living in America now.’ He responded immediately, “That doesn’t mean we have to pick up their bad habits, aye! ‘Strrruth!” He didn’t want to talk about it any more. So in hour household, four-letter words, divorce , euthanasia, abortion, the New York Yankees, Communism and cannibalism were taboo. My father said I could marry anyone I liked, thin or fat, fair or dark, Christian or Jew but never a Communist. Like my parents Auld Pop had been married for 32 1/2 years and separated only by war, by part of the Great Depression, when he worked in America as bird of passage, and by death. But as I grew up I heard more and more about that dread social disease but thanks be to God it never came close to home something for which we were all very glad. My parent’s marriage was like the Rock of Gibraltar. How did it get that way? How did it stay that way?

I can’t even imagine what my grandfather or parents would have thought of Gay Marriage or “marriage equality.” I am sure they would have been dumbfounded at the the statute definition of marriage in California since January 1, 2015:

Marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between two persons, to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary.

So that is Society’s law and idea of civil marriage and of course I can and I will peacefully coexist with this law. I have no interest in the marriage patterns of other individuals and other religions. I have zero interest in the social contracts of consenting adults and what they do in the privacy of their own homes. I hope they are very happy with their personal choices and beliefs. But it doesn’t change my deep belief that secular society (the State) does not value nor understand traditional marriage or sacramental marriage. Changing the definition of marriage in the dictionary to me does not change the etymology of the word nor its traditional meaning.

And everything I write about marriage and marital love I write about from the point of view of a traditional Christian marriage. Not Muslim, not Jewish, not Buddhist, not Atheist not secular. I am not telling anyone how they should lead their lives, lead their love lives or lead their marriages. I just invite those who are sympathetic to consider the joys and strengths of true spousal love between a man and a woman. But people need to choose. The tragedy comes when one person is serious about his or her marriage vow and the other is not. For this reason, I believe husband and wife should share the same religious faith. Husband and wife should decide in what religious tradition they are going to raise their children.

If I have a criticism of my parent’s marriage it was that they never made a decision to belong to any church community one way or another after marriage as part of their own articles of peace. But it hurt us all to some degree as we only had our small family community and no extended community to belong to. It didn’t bother me as a small child but as I grew up I felt the lack and was alienated from others due to my relative agnosticism and disbelief. I felt the need to identify with one specific tradition or another. I had traditional values and mores but did not belong to a community which held similar beliefs. My father tried to be a philosopher and a good Catholic without God or a church community but that was all right only for him. My mother suffered (quietly) because of the lack of a church community. So as an adult I was baptized as a Christian in the Roman Catholic rite and my wife and I were married sacramentally in the Roman Catholic church. Two of our three children are married and both married in the Roman Catholic church.

Love is a joyous. Love is spontaneous, sincere and honest. Love is merciful as our heart is open to the feelings of others, especially those who are hurting, lonely or distressed. My mother, Ruth Munro, was a RN, a loving mother and a gentle teacher. Singing she had the voice of an angel and speaking in person or on the phone she had a sweet and kindly voice. She had what is called a sonsie face (which means goodnatured, happy, attractive) “Hel-OOOH!” she would say and “TA-TA! Too-da-loo!” (Goodbye). God gave her a sensitivity for the suffering of others and a passion to help them. During the war she tended to seriously wounded soldiers who were far from their homes and families and who had literally hours or minutes to live. Some were as young as nineteen. She sat with them to the very end, talking to them gently praying with them. Some were blind; most responded to her voice though some were silent except for their labored breathing. Then they died. She saw to it their bodies were treated with dignity. They say God’s love is completely pure and unselfish not expecting anything in return. My mother’s love for her dying patients had to be close to this kind of love.

So true love is spontaneous and never a unhappy duty. Perhaps this is true of eros or agape which are perhaps the most intense loves. But we have a duty to love others and other things. What would love be without faithfulness? What would freedom be if men did not love it faithfully to death? Unfaithful love is a selfish love, a love that forgets what it has loved or once loved. Unfaithful love is often, if not always, somewhat dishonorable. It lacks commitment. Marital love has to have gratitude, friendship, memory and deep commitment. Love grows with youth and beauty but also with the years. It is a wonderful thing, to have memories of love and friendship going back 20,30,40,50 years. Sang the Scottish bard Burns:

My love is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June:
My love is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.

How fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I;
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till all the seas gang dry.

Till all the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt with the sun;
I will love thee still, my dear,
While the sands of life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only love.
And fare thee weel awhile!
And I will come again, my love,
Though it were ten thousand mile.

I recited Burn’s poem from memory and translated it at my wedding on St. Columba’s Day (June 9, 1982) . Then I sang it a cappella. The Spanish band didn’t know many Scottish songs but when I finished they played my surprise and delight surprise of all Scots and Americans present AULD LANG SYNE which everyone recognized. Everyone cheered and applauded. My wife then gave me red sash with the coat of arms of her home province (Soria, Spain) with a handknit woolen purple thistle and a kelly green woolen shamrock (representative of my Gaelic and Christian heritage) sewed upon it. The coat of arms has a castle and a fragment of the poem to Soria by the poet Antonio Machado in his book Campos de Castilla:

¡Soria fría, Soria pura,
cabeza de Extremadura,
con su castillo guerrero
arruinado, sobre el Duero;
con sus murallas roídas
y sus casas denegridas!

Soria cold!, Soria pure!
head of Extremadure!,
with her ruined warrior castle
upon, the old Duero
with its worn away eroded walls
and its blackened houses!

The band then played Que Viva España!

A very happy and joyous memory!

I still have that sash with its symbols representing the marriage of two traditions in one, that of our common Christendom. The Gael I think, and I speak here as a Gael not as an American, has a strong memory of Christendom and therefore feels at home in Italy, Spain, France and Portugal or Latin America. It is a cognate fact that no Munro of my race or line has married an English-speaking woman in many generations and this includes my son. What is it that makes us travel the fringe of the English-speaking world and feel at home with Gaelic-speaking women, French-speaking, Italian speaking and Spanish speaking women? Part of the reason must be culture. My people were not city dwellers but Islanders and Highlanders. They were more traditionalist and not avant-garde. So perhaps modest women, more traditionalist women appealed to them and to me. And coming from a multilingual background speaking English was not a prerequisite. I love the English language and read it and write it and speak it every day but I love other languages equally well. Now, that we are isolated during this plague year I notice that I might go many hours without hearing or speaking English. Of course, I lived in Spain on and off for years and went weeks and months without speaking or hearing English from anyone (I still wrote letters and read in English every day). So it was in the cards for me that my spouse would probably not be monocultural and would have traditionalist values and a love for classical and traditional music. The coat of arms of Soria was fitting a proper because in way Antonio Machado (representing poetry, the Spanish language and Spanish literature) brought me to Spain. Machado and I have a few things in common (though of course he is a great poet and I am not). Like Machado I loved Soria. Like Machado I walked the same hallways and sat in the same classroom where he taught now called the Instituto Antonio Machado and like Machado I married a Sorian native. We still have close ties to Soria and it is a well known place to all of children. One of our daughters was baptized in an ancient church where El Cid and his wife Ximena worshipped. In normal years my son leads pilgrimages with his students in Spain during the summer.

Antonio Machado by Joaquin Sorolla. Like Machado my wife was a native of Soria, Spain


What is love? Love is not just an emotion or a passing feeling. Love is not just lust or sex. Love is not only nor primarily physical or sexual. C. S Lewis wrote: “poster after poster, film and film, novel after novel associate the idea of sexual indulgence with the ideas of health, normality,youth, frankness and good humour. Now this association is a lie.” It’s a lie because the Hugh Heffner love is a very narrow love. I was struck by the fact he would wake up with women whose names he did not know and that he did not share his PIN numbers with them? If he had been poor or old or sick would these young women have shared their bodies with him? Probably not which means, essentially, Hefner bought their companionship. That’s not true love. True love means we respect the one one love especially in the power and use of sex. True love cannot be forced like a man demanding a woman give in to him sexually whenever he wants regardless of her feelings or health. True love, mature love is patient ad requires discipline, self-control and sometimes sacrifice.

One of my favorite “sex stories” -strictly PG- was when I was in Scotland some years ago with my brother-in-law who was born in Panama but educated in America and so spoke English fluently. I told him I would be his interpreter in Scotland. He was annoyed by this and couldn’t imagine why he would need an interpreter. After all isn’t England part of Scotland? Isn’t Scotland an English-speaking country? The answer to the first question is no and the answer to the second question is sometimes. On the first night we were in Scotland, the very first Scottish person my brother-in-law ever met was a sonsie red-haired Scottish waitress who asked him, “Sir, do you want stars?” My brother in law was perplexed and looked up at the starry night and said to her, “Yes, it is a nice evening.” She repeated, “Stars, sir wad ye like stars?” Again my brother-in-law hesitated, speechless.

I intervened on his behalf, “I said to the young woman , ” Yes,we would be delighted to have some appetizers! May I have the Bill o’fare?” She smiled gave us the menu and took our order. She had said, starters or star’ers! It sounded like “stars” to the uninitiated. Now for the rest of the story.

My brother in law still didn’t believe he needed an interpreter in Scotland and a few days later we were in Edinburgh. We stopped at a very posh shop for sweets on the Royal Mile and were attended by an absolutely ravishing dark-haired Scottish woman in her early 20’s. My brother in law handed her some sweets and biscuits and she said to him, “Sir, do you want sex?” He hesitated and she repeated, “Sir, do you want sex? ” He looked at me and I said, “She wants to know if you want a bag with your purchase?” (sacks=sex). This time my brother in law could not help but chuckle. He said, to me, afterwards “What a country! You are right -maybe I do need an interpreter! How is it they don’t get mixed up themselves?” I replied, “That’s easy. They don’t talk about it. They just do it!” Now my sister and brother-in-law were laughing heartily.

So, my brother-in-law said, “What else to the Scots do?”

“Hoot mon, ” I said playfully. “The Scots play “neive-nick-nack” a guessing game with their closed fists and if you are lucky it might end up in “neukie.” Once again my Latin brother-in-law had a blank look on his face. He said “what in Heaven’s name is THAT?? ” To which I responded waving a bag of candy, “Neukie, mon! SACKS! (sex)

My sister laughed and laughed. “Aye,” she said, “Like wantin’ pumped the nicht? Whan thir is nae much oan telly.” (TRANSLATION Do you feel like sex tonight? There isn’t much on TV) Now the Scots around us just howled with laughter. It was contagious. We laughed and laughed. I couldn’t help but wave the bag of sweets and said, “Sir, wad ye like sex? How aboot it , Sir, Sex?” He laughed and laughed and is probably still laughing when he thinks about it. Sex like sacks is just a word. But all words are better with a laugh. Love and marriage need to have a few laughs from time to time. It’s essential.

Sex is only a small part of love or a relationship perhaps the easiest part particularly for young people. Viktor Frankl wrote:” Normally, sex is a vehicle of expression for love. Sex is justified, even sanctified, as soon as, but only as long as, it is a vehicle of love. Thus love is not understood as a mere side-effect of sex; rather, sex is a way of expressing the experience of that ultimate togetherness which is called love.”

If love were just sex one could just relieve one’s urges with a sexbot or sex doll and just get it over with.

Doesn’t seem a very happy way of loving. To me it seems very dull. The lowest bordello would be more engaging. “This is a recording. (robot voice) I love you. Bang, bang, Marine? Pleasure me again, Dirk! ” What existential loneliness to be all alone in a dark room, humping a lubed-up sexbot! The tragedy and pathos of Johnny Guitar would not have worked with a robot. An ageless sexbot cannot ever compete with an aging Joan Crawford pushing 50 with many years and sorrows etched on her face with a body that has known much sexual action but with a heart empty of true love.

There is much more to marriage and love then merely sex. A relationship built mostly on youthful lust will probably fail. The Highlanders of old had a lovely saying: “Tis modesty the true beauty of womankind.” (Is i ‘n aileantachd maise nam ban) Youth cannot believe age will come but it will come. ” Beauty ’tis like the rainbow, when its shower is past its glory is gone. But beauty remains for the bard, he sees her in youth, unchanged, unmarred.” True love outlasts the brief fires of youth. Youth passes away, drop by drop, breath by breath unseen, in a sigh, in a flash – together with the youth and its strength.

Paul Coelho in Na margem do rio Piedra eu sentei e chorei (By the River Piedra I sat and wept) ,wrote: “Those who are truly enlightened, those whose souls are illuminated by love, have been able to overcome all of the inhibitions and preconceptions of their era. They have been able to sing, to laugh, and to pray out loud; they have danced and shared what Saint Paul called ‘the madness of saintliness’. They have been joyful – because those who love conquer the world and have no fear of loss. True love is an act of total surrender.” When men and women love one another they can love generously or thoughtlessly and selfishly. The less selfish the love, the purer and more long lasting it is.

Leo Tolstoy, in Anna Karenina wrote of this broader love: “I think love, both kinds of love, which you remember Plato defines in his “Symposium” – both kinds of love serve a touchstone for men. Some men understand only the one, some only the other. Those who understand only the non-platonic love need not speak of tragedy. For such love there can be no tragedy. “Thank you kindly for the pleasure, good bye,” and that’s the whole tragedy. {Expense of spirit in a waist of shame} And for the platonic love there can be no tragedy either, because there everything is clear and pure.”

Loving should be wonderful, without shame or regret and is best of all when it is fruitful. My Auld Pop (Thomas Munro, Sr) used to speak of “Dud in the Mud” neukie (i.e. sex). There is a way of loving that is lustful, shameless, vile and unfaithful. I think C.S.Lewis came closest to explaining the wide splendor of love by saying there were four loves and sexuality (eros) was only one and perhaps not the most enduring. My father took delight in the girl he loved (Ruth, my mother) and was strongly attracted to sexually as a woman (eros) but also as a person with a good character and mind (philia love). And he told my son (who laughed heartily), “Forget all that. Your grandmother was a knockout. She was irresistibly sexy. That’s where it all started. I had to have her in my life or die.” Perhaps that’s how it all began but my father of course loved my mother for much more than her figure.

My father loved my mother as I did for her selflessness and her broad kindness, spontaneous feeling and charity for others . It was clear to my father when he met my mother in 1940 when she was working tirelessly as a nurse in the ICU in the Norwegian Hospital and the night shift that she worked as she felt an deep and intense social and communal obligation towards all the people of society, young and old, rich and poor. He asked my mother where she got such energy and devotion . My mother, who knew the Bible backwards and forward said: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35) and “I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.” (Matthew 25:43). My mother believed every man, woman and child had within a spark of divinity, a deep humanity and these sacred bonds connected every soul. And as brothers and sisters it was only decent and proper to treat each individual person you met with respect, goodness, generosity and kindness. If ever a person exemplified philanthropia that natural proclivity to love others, it was my mother Ruth L Anderson, RN. If every a person exemplified Agape love it was she and I think my father recognized that in her also.

Viktor Frankl who knew true love briefly as a young man -his wife was murdered during the Holocaust- wrote:

Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.

I think back on the love and marriage of my parents -married for fifty nine and a half years separated only by war and death. My father said their love was born in passion and eros but said he had been moved as to how kind she was to others including other patients, other nurses, pet dogs, the newspaper boy on the street. He noticed how much others loved my mother. (she was a very sweet, kindly soul).

I would like to write that he was so moved by her faith and goodness that he went through a conversion and became a practicing Christian and a member of a Church community his entire life. But that was not so for a number of reasons. Reasons that are very instructive.

My father had been raised as a Catholic up to the age of 12, in Scotland. He went to a Catholic school, most of his friends and teammates on his football (soccer) team were Catholic (if not all) and he was popular and well-liked. Not so in America. From almost the beginning he was alienated by the people in his American parish which was heavily Italian, Polish and especially Irish-American. As recent immigrants with strong accents he and his elder brother Jos were ruthlessly tormented and attacked after school by these so-called brothers in Christ. It got to the point my father and uncle would leer at the families of the other boys as they went in the Church but not enter themselves. This violence was a very hurtful form of hypocrisy. Worst of all the Irish-born priest of his American parish had a deep hatred of the British, the British Army and all Protestants.

Of course, most of my father’s family, including his father (and all his Catholic relatives) had served in the British Army (even his Irish relatives). My father had been aware of sectarian hatred in Scotland but he had never met the more virulent Northern Irish kind. So his relationship with his American parish priest was very tenuous (though his mother and sister were loyal and practicing Catholics). My father and uncle took them to church every Sunday but stayed outside and smoked. So even though my parents fell in love almost immediately upon dating their relationship was without family conflict and direct hostility from some family members and clergy. That was something they had to overcome.

So my father was indifferent to his Catholic faith by 1940 at age 25. My mother , of course, came from a Free Church (Evangelical Protestant) background. Her family hated the Pope and the Catholic Church the way my father’s parish priest hated the King of England, and Protestants, especially British protestants.

But my father loved his mother and my mother loved my father so they agreed to get married in the local parish church. Now, in Scotland mixed marriages were fairly common. My grandmother had never seen any hostility to marriage with a person who agreed to marry in the church and raise the children as Catholics. So she innocently set up an appointment for her son to see the priest. And as a dutiful and loving son my father went.

My father tried to be very respectful but from the start the priest was very aggressive. My mother came with her best friend, Katherline Law Brennan, who was of Irish and Scottish descent BUT she her parents and grandparents were all Protestants – they had come from the North of Ireland. (At little bit like Fawlty Towers “Whatever you do DON’T MENTION the war!”) So the priest said: (incredibly) “And who is this? I have never seen her in this parish at all!” My father said, “Father, this is Kay Brennan, Ruthie’s classmate from high school and her best friend.” “Also a Protestant? ” the priest growled. “Yes, father but we are not going planning to marry in her church or my wife’s church but in your church. My mother’s church.” “And NOT YOUR CHURCH, young man? NOT YOUR CHURCH.?”

And then he said the most unkindest cut of all. The priest said, “I don’t see why you have to drag a Proddy dog off the street when there are so many fine Catholic girls in the parish.” Those were his exact words. No wonder the Irish Civil War was such a bitter internecine conflict!

At that my father grew angry and shouted at the priest, “You are lucky, father that there are women present and you are an old man because if they were not the case I would make you wish you were a Protestant Son of a Bitch instead of a miserable excuse for a Christian and a hypocritical Catholic Son of A Bitch. ”

Needless to say, others came to the rescue of the priest and basically my father was thrown out the church. Kay Brennan got in between them and said, “Gentlemen, NO MORE OF THIS.” In those days no man would hit a lady. So blessed are the peacemakers. And whoever said, “God is love” had never been to Belfast in Northern Ireland. There nationalist hatred and pride cancelled out all charity. I think the roots of C.S.Lewis’ ecumentical Christian feeling was based on the sectarian hatred he had to have known as a boy in Ireland.

My mother was completely overwhelmed with grief at the whole nasty incident. She innocently thought that agreeing to marry in the Catholic church would satisfy everyone and that there would be no problem. Now she was weeping uncontrollably say, “Now we can never get married, Never! And Tommy you can’t get married in MY church they are as wicked and as bigoted as that Irishmen! Oh, God help me I have never been so unhappy.”

The only one who was completely cool and collected was Kay Brennan. Kay said, “I know what to do. Let me make a few phone calls.” She left my father and mother in a bar when they nursed a beer. After a short while she came back and said, “We are all taking a ride to Manhattan. Tommy, buy some flowers. Your and Ruthie are getting married. TODAY.” Kay told me later she never saw such a smile on my father’s face. My mother’s face just showed astonishment.

This is where my parents, Thomas and Ruth Munro married on the afternoon of June 14, 1941. They had one witness, Katherine Law Brennan our closest family friend and godmother.

So they went by subway from Bay Ridge to 34th street and walked a few blocks to Little Church Around the Corner (Church of the Transfiguration), an Episcopal church on 1 29th street between Madison and Fifth Avenue and got married there on Flag Day June 14, 1941.

There was a very simple ceremony. My mother had a bouquet of flowers. They wore nice clothes but nothing special. The Anglican priest declared them man and wife (he was aware of the difficulties my mother had endured) He said, “Everyone is welcome here. Even Scots.” He gave my father a wink. And Kay Brennan was the witness.

Kay said, “Now you are legal. What does it say in the old Book? “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” “Matthew 19:6” my mother added.

They then went home to his mother’s house in Brooklyn and granny said, smilingly, when they came “And how was the meeting Father X? I know he is a difficult Irishman but….”

Total silence. Then granny saw the wedding ring.

My father said, “it didn’t work out, Mother. We tried but that Irish bastard….” Tommy she chastised him for his coarse language and said quietly but firmly shaking her head. “And , Tommy….. Ruthie you are NO’ MARRIED in the eyes of the Churrrrch!” That was a mortal sin to her. Something impossible. Something unforgiveable.

They didn’t argue with her at all. And loving son that he was my father said, “Mother, don’t worry I will fix everything. Ruthie wants to get married in the Catholic Church, don’t you Ruthie? ”

And my mother who had never once in her life thought about the possibility of being married in the Catholic church, and after that morning had every reason NOT to get married in the Catholic Church said, said. “Of course, Tommy and I are making plans.” That was the kind of woman she was. She wasn’t going to hate Mrs Munro or the entire Catholic Church for one well let’s say it one bad egg.

Sacred Heart Church in Brooklyn where my parents were married a second time to make it “official” for granny

Fortunately the Scottish immigrant community was very diverse so Mrs. Munro and my father found a Scottish Roman Catholic priest, a certain Father Garvey (known affectionately as Father Gravy) of whose mother had been an Anglican Scottish Episcopalian or Church of Ireland -anyway his mother was Protestant- and he was known as the go to guy for mixed marriages. I heard he even married Jew and a Gentile girl once. So he married my parents “officially” at his church (Sacred Heart) but they always celebrated the first one as their anniversary. They were not planning on any honeymoon at all but as destiny conspired they drove to Florida and caught a flight to Cuba unders somewhat unusual circumstances. But that’s another story! They lived happily ever after.

So my parents never really had a wedding part of any kinds or wedding gifts. They had Scotch meat pies and beer at Mrs. Munro’s house with a few guests but none of my mother’s relatives not even her mother. I think she was considered a scarlet woman by her strict church community.

Pale Anglicans after all all were just one notch higher than Roman Catholics and you couldn’t get lower than than except of course a Jew or Communist (they hated them too). Proof you don’t need a big wedding to have a good marriage. They had only one witness at their first marriage (my godmother) and only two witnesses at their “official” (to my grandmother) Catholic wedding a week later (my grandmother and my father’s sister.)

I still find it unbelievable my mother’s mother did not go to either celebration (even though my mother was an only child) My uncles Norman and Donald (we called them uncles but they were in fact my mother’s cousins) said they would have gone if they had known. As a matter of fact from June 14,1941 until August 1948 when my eldest sister was born my mother’s mother had no contact with my mother and father at all.

As a result my sisters and I were raised as lukewarm non-denominational Christians and sectarian differences were not argued over or discussed. We did have some religious education via the Bible my mother took us to see the TEN COMMANDMENTS, QUO VADIS and BEN HUR. We did attend church services occasionally but never formally belonged to any church. And like my mother I was not baptized until I was an adult .

I gradually learned that the Episcopal Church (Anglican) of my relatives was slightly different from the Roman Catholic Church -it had fewer statues and children though I didn’t know why. And my mother had close ties with her cousins Norman and Donald so they gradually began what could only be described as a slow and painful reconciliation with the Calvinist and non-baseball side of the family. And that as the old Tom Lehrer song went “the Protestants hate the Catholics, and the Catholics hate the Protestants, and the Hindus hate the Moslems and everybody hates the Jews.” That song I understood immediately. When visiting my mother always attended the religious services of the people she was visiting and insisted we go with her and behave. She taught me it was good manners to respect the religions of others in so far as it was possible. So I didn’t know much about religion except that it seemed to cause problems and that sectarian hatred and jealousy was something to be avoided.

There is a warmth of natural affection what C.S. Lewis called the humblest love or storge (natural affection) as well as philia love (friendship) for sharing many interests. Viktor Frankl also wrote: “For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.” My father felt the same. His greatest joy was in his marriage and in his love for his wife, his family and his grandchildren. He was faithful his entire married life. All that was more important than career or money. He sacrificed career opportunities to provide us a stable home and a stable education. He drove a 1954 Ford for many years only selling it when it couldn’t pass the state inspections (due to a minor problem not the engine). He didn’t care about fancy cars. The fanciest car he ever had was a 1978 Oldsmobile that he got through work and then he kept it for almost 20 years. He spent most of his money on books, tapes, records going to the opera, plays, concerts and foreign travel for educational reasons. He also liked baseball and we went to many games together as a family. He didn’t like camping out but liked day hikes. He especially enjoyed outings to museums like the Cloisters or the Metropolitan Museum of Art or concerts or plays or the occasional “good movie.” As as boy our next door neighbor was tenor Bill Tabbert (once well-known for South Pacific) and we played with his children Chris and Cappy. I remember we went to a patriotic concert to see Bill Tabbert and Robert Merrill. One thing my never did (and my mother I know suffered because of this) as join a church community ANY church community. He only went to weddings or funerals. My mother attended Mass with my father’s sister for as long as she lived and had many Catholic friends. She belonged to a Church bowling league. But she never joined the Catholic Church herself. Her two cousins (we called them unclsa) were brought up in the same Free Church Calvinist Church as she but left it as soon as they were adults. I think they were influenced by the shabby treatment of my mother’s mother and her sister and the church community of my mother.

One of the cousins, Donald, married an Irish-American girl and became a Catholic . He was a devout Catholic to the day he died. The other Norman, became an Episcopal Deacon. Norman and Donald warned my father that that having a lack of community might be fine for HIM but it was hard on Ruthie and it might come back to hurt the children. ‘They don’t belong to anyone, Tom. You have a wonderful family but it is completely insular. Kids grow up. They need to meet nice young men and nice young girls with similar values.” But at that time (late 50’s early 60’s) my father felt that most Americans had good values and his children could choose their own faith freely on their own when they grew up. But the 60’s were a shock for him.

THOMAS MUNRO JR. (1915-2003; CIRCA 1937 age 21 UPON GRADUATION FROM BROOKLYN COLLEGE

Ruth L Munro, RN (nee Anderson) circa 1940 age 24

So my parents had a tumultuous early marriage and were separated for most of the war years 1943-1946. A. J. Cronin wrote: “Life is no straight and easy corridor along which we travel free and unhampered, but a maze of passages, through which we must seek our way, lost and confused, now and again checked in a blind alley.   But always, if we have faith, a door will open for us, not perhaps one that we ourselves would ever have thought of, but one that will ultimately prove good for us.”   And in the early 1930’s my parents were like “ships that pass in the night.” They graduated from the same high school in the same year but never met or saw each other as far as I know. Then the years rolled by 1934,1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940. The poet Dunbar wrote:

O Earth, O Sky, O Ocean, both surpassing, O heart of mine, O soul that dreads the dark! Is there no hope for me? Is there no way That I may sight and check that speeding bark Which out of sight and sound is passing, passing?

But there is I think a strange force behind destiny. A loving force. In 1940, seven years after they had graduated from the same high school they were introduced by a strange quirk of fate. My mother was working as a Registered Nurse in the Norwegian Hospital (4520 Fourth Avenue,Brooklyn ; its modern incarnation is the NYU Langone Hospital). My father, who had graduated from Brooklyn College in 1937, was working the night shift at City Bank. One late night as he was returning home to Brooklyn by car another car was driving at a high speed in the wrong lane straight at my father’s car. He veered to avoid a head-on collision but instead smashed into a light pole totally his car. There were no seat belts in those days. The other driver did not stop. My father was bleeding from his head and unconscious when he was taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital which was, as the fates would have it, the Norwegian Hospital.

And who was the nurse on the night shift?

Ruth Anderson, of course. Who else?

Miss Ruth L. Anderson a pretty 24 year old nurse born of immigrant parents. Her father Eric Anderson was killed in an industrial accident at the end of World War One when she was a baby so she never knew her father.

When my father woke up in the hospital he thought he saw and angel in heaven. So that was not going to be his last day but in a way the very first day of the rest of his life. “No man can avoid the spot where birth or death is his lot.” is an old Highland saying (Bheir foid a bhreith ‘s bhais fear gu aite air eiginn) . Can any question the curious phenomenon that some people come into your life, almost by chance and then your entire life changes? La forza del destino my father would say, it’s-the force of destiny! You cannot escape destiny!

A favorite opera of my parents based on the work by Spanish playwright the Duque de Rivas

According to my mother’s stories, my father slept all day so he could stay up all night and could be able to talk to her. Since he had worked incessantly since age 12 this was , in effect, his first vacation in his life. It was not love at first sight, certainly not on my mother’s side. They became acquainted those nights; learned that they had, by coincidence, graduated from the same high school and did not live far from each other. My father now had the phone number and address of my mother and he called her about a week after he left the hospital to ask her for a date.

My mother was very charming and polite but turned him down. She said, quite truthfully, she had another previous engagement but that my father as welcome to call another time. My father called a second time and again my mother said, she was sorry but she had an engagement but perhaps next week. My father was starting to think he was getting the cold shoulder and he told us later he was only going to call her one time more time and then tear up her number. (we didn’t believe him) So he called my mother again (trying to be as calm as possible). This time she accepted. She said she would have accepted the other times but she wasn’t going to drop everything -her friends- for some eager guy.

I think one of the nights she went to the movies with my godmother, her best friend Katherine Law Brennan. Kay and my mother used to joke it was a good thing they didn’t make plans for the movies the week of her first date! Kay had gone on a trip with her father. I always thought his was an amazing story because if they had never had that first date I wouldn’t be here now!

Kay was a lovely woman and a great patriot who served her country for many years (I won’t say more than that). I see her large portrait in our living from from where I sit. It looks down kindly upon us every morning, every afternoon, every night. She was one of the most important influences not only in my parent’s lives but in our lives. She went to NYU and I went to NYU. When I graduated from Marine Corps OCS she was there. She gave me a Japanese Naval Lieutenant’s Samurai Sword captured at Saipan by the Marines. Naturally, she came to OUR weddings as well but sadly never married herself. Yes, there was once a US Marine but that is another story…..that did not come true. for her. ) She had an especial love for US Marines and as she visited dozens if not hundreds of US Embassies she was always glad to see them and often shared drinks with them.

My father when he told the story said said rejection is part of life. You are going to get turned down for jobs and dates your whole life. Don’t take it personally. It doesn’t mean that you are worthless and that you will never get a job or date.

So times love and opportunity are not in the cards. So go play another time with other players. “Patience and shuffle the cards” (paciencia y barajar” said Cervantes.

But this time luck was on his side. So they began a courtship which lasted about 8 months.

Everything happens for a reason, they say, and it is all part of God’s plan for us as Mairi MacInnes told me once. I have been lucky in life to have had many good Christian friends and encouragers from many persuasions Catholic , Orthodox and Protestant.

Challenges will come but we must see them for what they are—opportunities we have to respond to. Each choice we make leads new paths and new persons or in this case my father’s future mate. My father was strongly of the belief that one should not “play the field wildly” with partners who could distract you and keeping finding your life partner. “MORES CVIQVE SVI FINGVNT FORTVNAM” he liked to quote Cornelius Nepos “Character is fate ” .  In other words we each find the destiny and path created by our character,

My mother hadn’t dated much before my father. I know she didn’t date at all in high school. She grew up in a very religious household and I remember she said she had an adult baptism at age 21 in her church. Her mother and father both belonged (I think they were converts) to a small Free Church what we would call Evangelical Protestant today. They were very Calvinist and very socially conservative. They didn’t dance or place cards or gamble or play with dice. I remember she said they would practice hymn but with nonsense words because it was considered a sacrilege to sing the hymns except on the Sabbath. Frankly, as a small boy my mother’s mother and her sister scared me and I dreaded spending weekends with them. It meant no baseball cards, no stratomatic baseball, no TV. I used to smuggle toy soldiers in my coat and then stay in the bathroom for hours “washing”.

I remember my mother said once she had a boyfriend who used to go skiing on weekends and he would claim to get snowed in and so stood her up. He called long distance and begged for forgiveness but my mother told him “Listen, Buster. Get lost!) She said she didn’t like the idea of waiting up nights for an itinerant boyfriend. What would he be like as a husband? My mother said calling when you say you’re going to is the very first brick in the house you are building of friendship, love and trust. If a man can’t lay this one brick down you know you are never going to have any lasting relationship. My mother had her rules for dating also which were based on common sense and respect.

HERE are Ruth Munro’s Rules for Dating:


1. You can look but don’t touch the merchandise
2. Never take out your false teeth on the first date. (a lot of people had bad teeth in those days)
3. Never say: “Do you have any aspirin? I have a splitting headache”… you can save that for later.
4. Never talk about politics ,religion or individual denominations. Let hints come out naturally. They can hate you later.

Thomas Munro, jr in later years; the author Richard K. Munro wearing the Munro tartan kilt his mother gave him; Mrs. Munro (Ruth L. Munro nee Anderson)


5. Never order the most expensive thing on the menu. Let him do it.
6. Don’t tell your date: “What a slob you are!” Just take mental notes and make polite suggestions.
7. Never say: “How much money do you make anyway?” You can tell a lot by someone’s manner, clothes and way of speaking. And money isn’t everything.

8) Be open to try something new but stick to beer or ginger ale on the first date.

9)Never be afraid to say, No, No thank you and I prefer not to.

10) Shake hands when you say goodnight unless you want to encourage him. Save your kisses for people you really like.

My mother said all good dates will have at least three things: food and or drink, some entertainment and and least some suggestion of affection. Her advice was to go slow and play hard to get. She said as one began a series of dates one could gradually reduce the entertainment,the quality of the food and drink and then show more affection if you thought the relationship was going someplace.

Like my father she worried if I dated someone who was that older and wiser woman. She said of one female companion I actually brought home, “Where did you pick her up. She is not spring chicken! . She is 30 if she is a day.” But wise woman she was she later said, “She was good for you but just not the right girl for you.” Of course, THAT ONE: she lied about her age the first time I met her (she was 29 not 23 and I was 22.) THAT ONE lied about her male relationships (she had quite a few and could have been classified as a courtesan). Naturally, I didn’t want to share ‘neukie’ with anyone. I could forgive the past. I could forgive ten or twenty extra pounds. But I couldn’t tolerate or forgive current and constant infidelity. Yes, she as true to me in her fashion which meant when she felt like it. Not a girl like mother! My father said, “When you finish with her get a blood test!” I did. Thank God I was clean.

My mother said to beware of a relationship where the physical affection was the entertainment. Men of course love relationships like that and when I was a young man I was not much different. If you had told me to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge to get a girl into bed I would have done it. As I said my father was a lapsed Catholic. He rarely if ever talked about religion to anyone. Many people knew him his entire life and never knew he had been born, raised and educated a Catholic. He was very closed lipped about his private life. I remember once were were in Ireland and someone asked if we were Catholic and he just lied and said, “Of course, not. The name is Munro. We’re Protestant.” He said to me privately soon afterwards, “This is Northern Ireland. You never tell the truth to strangers. Answer what you think is the safest answer. The woman had a picture of the Queen of England on the wall. What do you think she was? We are just passing through. We are not here for theological or political discussions.” My father was, normally very truthful but he was pragmatic and wise.

I know what my parents did on THE date in 1941 (when my mother said yes) because it became part of family lore. They went to see Wendy Hiller and Rex Harrison in Manhattan in the film version of Shaw’s play Major Barbara. Going to and from the theater on the long subway rides from Brooklyn my parents talked about concerts they had attended as well as films and plays they had liked such as Pygmalion with Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller (still an excellent film though it is hard to watch without thinking of My Fair Lady its musical clone).

I remember my mother saying of my father “he and I always had something to talk about movies, plays, poetry, books, music” and she was very impressed my father knew who Wendy Hiller was -my mother’s favorite actress. Hiller is not well-known today because she was primarily a stage actress.Joel Hirschorn described Hiller as “a no-nonsense actress who literally took command of the screen whenever she appeared on film”.

Both my parents before getting to know each other had seen Hiller independently in the hit play Love on the Dole in 1936 in New York. They had also seen Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart in 1935 in Robert Sherwood’s Petrified Forest. They both loved Shaw and Shakespeare and I have to first book of poetry my father gifted my mother, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. And of course they both loved the Brooklyn Dodgers as well!

My father didn’t have much money or a big job but my mother said, “I felt he had potential.” He never really made much money until after the war when he got an MBA at NYU on the GI Bill. My mother was impressed with my father’s character he helped support his own family and still lived with his mother whom she came to know very well. The religious difference in their backgrounds was never a problem for them. My father’s mother had many Protestant neighbors and friends in Scotland -Jewish ones also. There was a Gaelic choir in Govan she and her sister Annie sang in and some of the people were Protestant of different denominations. And when the war came in 1914 all the men in Govan served together Catholic, Protestant and Jews. The HLI (Highland Light Infantry) had Protestant, Catholic and Jewish Chaplains. I know my grandmother and her sister attended the funerals of Scottish Jewish soldiers during the war. My father best friend, Manny Sussman, who served with the RAF during WWII was an English Jew.

Ironically, as I said, my mother and father had gone to the same high school Manual Training High School in Brooklyn (now defunct) and graduated the same year but had never met each other though they had some friends in common (Alexander Scourby and Alfred Drake who also had some of the same teachers; they were later well-known actors). I think an important reason they never met in high school is that my father worked many hours after school at several jobs and so had no time for social events. He worked nights at slaughter house that used to be where the United Nations is today. Sometimes he would have blood stains on his homework papers and Mr. Sullivan his 11th grade teacher angrily chastised him for the stains on his essays. My father innocently, would say, “I am very sorry sir but in the semi-darkness of the slaughter house I can’t be sure if it is sweat or blood falling on the paper.” Mr. Sullivan was taken aback when hearing this and after that never even got angry with my father even if on hot afternoons he fell asleep in the back of the classroom. Tattletales would say, “Mr. Sullivan, Tommy Munro is sleeping!” Mr. Sullivan said, “Mr. Munro works more in a hour than you work in a week. I sure he had had a hard night working in the slaughterhouse. But I know he will turn in his homework tomorrow. How about you? Let him sleep a while in peace. The bell will ring soon.” And when the bell rang, my father would apologize to Mr. Sullivan but the kindly teacher said, ” Never mind that now. Go catch your train home to your family.” So my father had to work since age 12 but he attended school regularly, concentrated and persevered and tried to complete all his assignments. He did well enough to graduate and go on to college getting A’s in French, English and Latin and what he would say “reasonable” grades in science, math or shop (where he had to make horseshoes).

This is where Ruth Anderson trained as a nurse in the 1930’s and where she met my father when he was a patient there in 1941.
Nurses in the 1930’s giving the Florence Nightingale Pledge (some what different today: here is the 1935 version my mother would have said.

I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly to pass my life in purity and to practise my profession faithfully.
I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug.
I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling.
With loyalty will I aid the physician in his work, and as a missioner of health, I will dedicate myself to devoted service for human welfare

My parents loved faithfully, passionately and joyously especially when they were young. But how can this kind of love last? He would quote the Greek Euripides his favorite poet: “Never say that marriage brings more joys than tears.” He often spoke of unhappy marriages and mediocre marriages. What is needed? My father gave me some advice. Number one was this: to get to know the parents of my love interest and something of her background, education and upbringing. My father also told me never to date a girl who would be a good mate. He also said never to marry for money or advantage (alone). He said you should only marry someone you love and trust and want to spend the rest of your life with (ideally). The generation of ’68 in a nutshell hated their parents most shamefully, cutting themselves off from this tradition all too often. I observed to my shock young people who did not honor, love or respect their parents. To me, that was the ultimate in ingratitude. Society can only survive if children honor their parents. A society that does not honor parents and elders is doomed.

So as many people became more secular in the 1960’s I gradually become less of an Atheist/Pagan and more of an agnostic Christian/Jewish sympathizer. Society became more radical I became more conservative.

My father was a pragmatic Scot. He said get to know a girl’s mother or aunts and take a good look at them. He warned me that most young women aged 16-25 had sex appeal. But what would they look like in 20 or 30 years? My father bluntly said: “Look at the mother, always look at the mother. ” Could you possibly be sexually attracted to the mother of your potential beloved? Did she have any charm or sex appeal left?” One had to allow for the inevitable toll of years and for most women a more matronly figure in later years. But what he told me something that is certainly true: most young women have considerable sexual attractiveness for a few short years but this peak does not last long. A happy passionate relationship in the springtime of youth is, my father said, a bonnie thing, a touching thing. But he said that kind of love is fueled mostly by sex (eros). He said that wasn’t enough for a relationship or marriage to last over the long haul. Getting to know the mother and older female relatives could give you a reasonable good idea of what the potential beloved would like like when she was 40 or 50 and after 2, 3, 4 children.

Some women he said were exceeding beautiful in their peak years (16-25) but had as he put it “low lifetime batting averages.” Other women, he said, had the talent or discipline to maintain their beauty at a high level throughout many years. They had as he put it “high lifetime batting averages.” Over a twenty five year career who would you rather have on your team, Norm Cash or Hank Aaron? Warren Spahn or Jim Nash? Deborah Kerr or Shelley Winters? Julie Andrews or Anita Ekberg? I got the picture. The baseball and Hollywood metaphors sufficed. My father, by the way, never used coarse or sexual language when speaking of women which is why he preferred baseball metaphors. I understood Earned Run Averages, batting averages, the Big Stick and getting to first base.

It went without saying that neither he nor I would ever marry a woman who did not want children. Marriage to us, to our way of thinking, meant openness to children. Of course, it was always interesting to realize my father was not a Catholic in a way but in another way he was very Catholic in his values. I used to joke with him that that he was a Greek Philosopher, a Catholic Greek philosopher without God. So I have traditional values. FOR ME. People have to make their own choices in life. I have nothing against people who get divorced. It is a very personal question. Perhaps some marriages are intolerable and need to be dissolved. What do I know?

I feel I have been luckier than most. Today we have Gay Marriage. I still believe, personally that sacramental marriage is between one woman and one man. But I can accept and peacefully coexist with secular society’s modern customs. But now I know people who have been divorced from their husbands and now are remarried to another woman whom they call their husband. And God bless them if they are faithful friends and lovers and happy. It’s not for me but I respect their choices.

I have always loved women and never been interested in anything (physically)except females from about the age of 16 to 60. I have always had many female friends by the way. In fact most ot the people I have corresponded with in my life were women with a few exceptions.

Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer circa 1964. Both had very high lifetime batting averages.

Many young women seem like enchanted princesses;many young men act and seem like Prince Charming at the start. But the slim or sexy zaftig princess can change into a wicked, nagging queen without a shape. Then what? And the ex-Prince Charming perhaps balding, smelly and portly himself thinks only about his career and sexual satisfaction loves his wife less and less. As the years go by many active men meet younger women and sexier women by comparison to his aging, boring nagging wife. The temptation to cheat is very great especially if he is living in a morose marriage that seems to drag on and on punctuated by petty squabbles.

The ex-Prince Charming blames the ex-Princess for letting herself go. She blames him for not paying attention to her. She wants companionship, happiness in joint activities as a family and trips and in the end some kindness and passion. He wants to play golf and do activities with his male friends or business associates. The Ex-Princess is no longer what the husband desired and if they have no children in common that could cause additional resentment. And often end in a bitter divorce.

I have seen a lot of marriages -childless marriages- break up for this reason. A man I knew married an absolute knockout -she won beauty contests- but she was career minded and didn’t want any children. At first he didn’t want any either. So they led a self-indulgent yuppie lifestyle. But that man came to know the godchildren of his parents and began in his 30’s to think about wanting a family.

By this time his wife was pushing 40 (she was slightly older) and had gained, easily 50, 60 pounds since they were married They argued constantly and it was obvious it was a troubled relationship. I could be wrong but a formerly beautiful woman might especially resent being called “tubby” or “thunder thighs” in front of company. What a transformation! Eros had fled completely !

So they were divorced.

Eros is essential but needs to be reinforced by other loves. But Eros cannot be entirely absent in normal happy marriage. Once again my father said the main reasons for divorce were three: 1) not believing marriage was a sacrament to death to us part 2) too much money and too much sex (infidelity)3) not enough money and not enough sex (money and sexual problems).

Most men I know are genuinely grateful for their home and families. Sharing kids helps families stay together but it is not enough in itself. Most women who let themselves go have had multiple pregnancies, Some women I have met (such as Pamela Harriman whom I met in 1976 with Averell Harriman) work had at being in great shape but have few or no children. It is easier to keep your figure if you don’t have any kids . So in my opinion a man has to accept his wife’s somewhat matronly figure past 40 or so if she has had two or more children. Then some women breastfeed. For a year or more you have a wee one demanding “chichi”(milk) . (some women report that breastfeeding helps them keep their weight down). Once the kid is weaned they still take up a lot of time. It is then when many women neglect (to some extent) their husbands.

The husband if he is smart will understand and try to do everything he can to make his wife’s life easier. But more than one man began to stray after his wife’s pregnancies. I don’t believe men are, by nature, monogamous. They have to work at it and exercise self-discipline. I have been tempted by available single women but I avoided making big mistakes by frankly saying I was married. Viktor Frankl wrote: “…. today’s society is characterized by achievement orientation, and consequently it adores people who are successful and happy and, in particular, it adores the young. It virtually ignores the value of all those who are otherwise, and in so doing blurs the decisive difference between being valuable in the sense of dignity and being valuable in the sense of usefulness. If one is not cognizant of this difference and holds that an individual’s value stems only from his present usefulness, then, believe me, one owes it only to personal inconsistency not to plead for euthanasia along the lines of Hitler’s program, that is to say, ‘mercy’ killing of all those who have lost their social usefulness, be it because of old age, incurable illness, mental deterioration, or whatever handicap they may suffer.” The leal n’ true mon -the mench- is a faithful lover.

As Shakespeare wrote (sonnet 116 a sonnet my father knew by heart):

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

Ambrose Bierce said love was a temporary insanity curable by marriage. If one is speaking only of Eros (sexual) love he might have had a case. I have come to believe that marriage cannot be about usefulness. There has to be humor. I think my parents laughed an joked every day. I try to share a joke or funny cartoon with my wife every day. Agatha Christie said “An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets, the more interested he is in her.” Of course, Fulton Sheen wrote “It takes three to make love, not two: you, your spouse, and God. Without God people only succeed in bringing out the worst in one another. Lovers who have nothing else to do but love {eros}each other soon find there is nothing else. Without a central loyalty life is unfinished.”

Storgic love (spontaneous daily affection) should be there, philia love is necessary any long marriage is a long friendship and eros (desire) or its memory has to have been a part of any successful marriage. “Its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame.” (Song of Songs 8:6).

But as Peter Kreeft wrote “A marriage made wholly of the fire of eros with none of the surrounding walls of affection would not be livable for long. ” My father often said of my mother: “This is my beloved and this is my friend” (Song of Songs 5:16) .There has to be acceptance and forgiveness in marriage. One can’t find fault with the other. I think a couple should work together as a team. There has to be agape love and self-giving. My mother had agape love from the very first day of her marriage in in the long years afterwards. And with only prayer and only love my father came close to embracing the four loves. But not quite I think. In one of his last talks to me, he was much chastened but sighed and said, “It is too good to be true.”

W. H. Auden said:

“In my own person I am forced to know
How much must be forgotten out of love,
How much must be forgiven, even love.”

One has to have patience in a marriage.

People fail. They make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone gets older -if they are lucky.

Song of Songs 7:10-13

10 I belong to my beloved,
    and his desire is for me.
11 Come, my beloved, let us go to the countryside,
    let us spend the night in the villages.[a]
12 Let us go early to the vineyards
    to see if the vines have budded,
if their blossoms have opened,
    and if the pomegranates are in bloom—
    there I will give you my love.
13 The mandrakes send out their fragrance,
    and at our door is every delicacy,
both new and old,
    that I have stored up for you, my beloved.

AVE et VALE Tommie Munro (March 10, 1915- September 27, 2003)

My father had said the day before the Ruthie had sung to him in his dreams. She sang, he said:

16 My beloved is mine and I am his;
    he browses among the lilies. (Song of Songs 2:16)

My sister had served him his favorite breakfast and he said with a smile, “Pat, I think this is the best breakfast I have ever had!” Then he put his head on the table and spoke no more. On his final day -I was many thousands of miles away- I paused my car a short while by my house and watched as the sun set. “There it goes, Hooker,” my father used to quote from a favorite Gary Cooper movie, “and each day it takes someone with it. Today it is me. ” Somehow I knew he was dead.

Ruth Anderson my jo, Ruth,
      We clamb the hill thegither,
And monie a cantie day, Ruth
      We’ve had wi’ ane anither;
Now we maun totter down, Ruth,
      And hand in hand we’ll go,
And sleep thegither at the foot,
      Ruth Anderson, my jo!

And when I came home after a very short time the long distance call came from Munich, Germany. “Jaja” was gone. As so we had heard the last notes a a “sweet auld sang.” I had several great consolations: our children who loved and knew both their grandparents, and my own beloved wife to whom I said,”I love you! I am so glad I am not alone on this day, in this moment.” I was so glad Ruthie and Tommie Munro taught me the secrets of an enduring love. An Irish bard sang:

Beauty ’tis lke the rainbow

when the shower is past

its glory is gone.

But beauty remains for the bard

He sees her in youth,

unchanged, unmarred

And loves her all the more.

“John Anderson My Jo” based on the Robert Burns poem by James Stokeld (1877)

‘Y’know, I’m glad we kept it small.’

―