Monday, December 13, 2010

Kicking back in the Flag City

Findlay, Ohio

Since the fall semester in the School of Theology ended last week, I am taking a brief break of sorts in the area where I grew up and lived much of my adult life before coming to the monastery—northwest Ohio. I was born and raised in Findlay, Ohio, where my mother still resides.

Findlay (also know as Flag City) is a town of roughly 40,000 people in the center of Hancock County. It is largely an economically vibrant (sitting right on Interstate 75 is a big factor) and politically conservative area with deep roots in agriculture and heavy industrial trades. It is named for a fort built by Col. James Findlay during the War of 1812. Its claims to fame:

 During the 19th Century, it was a booming area in natural gas production.
 The song “Down by the Old Mill Stream” was written in Findlay by Tell Taylor in the early 20th Century.
 The city is the headquarters of Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. (for which my mother worked for many years to help put me through college).
 For most of the 20th Century, Findlay was also the headquarters of Marathon Oil Co. (now based in Houston), which still operates in the city.
 One of the area’s leading employers is a huge manufacturing plant and distribution center for Whirlpool.
 Ben Roethlisberger, the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is a native son.
 Unfortunately, the city garnered a great deal of national attention in the summer of 2007 when it suffered a devastating flood from which it is still recovering.
 And, it has been well-known throughout the region and beyond for Wilson’s (Mity Nice) Hamburgs, and, of course, the incomparable Dietsch Bros. Ice Cream and Candy (where I used to work while in high school). Nothing tastes quite like Dietsch’s ice cream, and their dark chocolate covered pretzels are a unique treat.

Actually, I grew up about five miles west of Findlay (yes, I am a country boy) in the school district of Liberty-Benton—where I graduated from high school way back in 1984. I went to college about 20-25 minutes up I-75 at Bowling Green State University. My mother moved to a condo in the city in 2004, about a year or so after my father died.

Anyway, enough of memory lane. Primarily, I am home for a few days to take care of a number of financial details prior to my making solemn vows at Saint Meinrad next month. Being a man of 41 when I entered the monastery, I had accumulated a number of assets of which I must now offcially and finally dispose since the Benedictine vow of conversatio includes poverty.

However, while I am in Findlay, I also am enjoying a very rare opportunity to relax and spend some time with my family. On Saturday, I drove from Saint Meinrad straight to the Red Pig Inn in Ottawa, Ohio, where my father’s side of the family was having its annual Christmas celebration. So, I was able to visit with many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins (and their rapidly growing families).

Shannon and Ian as he reads the Nativity story to us.
Also here for the weekend were my brother Kevin, who lives in Cincinnati, along with his girlfriend Wendy (from Toledo) and her daughter McKinsey; and my sister Shannon, her new husband Ty, and son Ian, who all live in West Virginia. On Sunday, we all (including two dogs) squeezed into my mother’s two-bedroom condo to enjoy an Advent dinner and gift exchange (for the kids). It has been a very long time since I have been able to visit with all of them together outside of a huge event (such as my sister’s wedding in September). It has been a bit louder than what I am used to back at the monastery, but still a welcome respite, and I marvel at the energy level, intelligence, and quick wit of my new 8-year-old step-nephew Ian. He is a character.

Ty and Shannon
Wendy and McKinsey, who appears to really like her gift.

Bailey: When do we eat?

Tomorrow, as I did today, I will attend to a few more financial details before returning to Saint Meinrad in the middle of the week. Once I am back, in addition to continuing to work at the Abbey Press, I will have a number of things to do in preparation for vows January 25—including sending out invitations and moving into my new cell. I am looking forward to the rest of Advent, celebrating the Christmas season, and then making my solemn vows before the next school semester begins, and the next chapter in my monastic journey.

I wonder how many boxes of dark chocolate covered pretzels I can fit in the trunk of the car?

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