(Editor’s Note: Today we are introducing our newest regular local columnist, Genevan John Zakour. His “Positive Vibes” column will run every other Tuesday on the Opinion Page).

I try to be a positive person. I try not to be judgmental. But DANG, by most accounts 2020 was a pretty lousy year. COVID-19 hit and changed the way we lived and interacted with each other.

Normally our house is full of visitors — either family from out of town or friends. This year there have been no visitors. In fact, besides me, my wife, our son and one of our son’s friends have been the only people in our house unmasked (The son and friend had to take tests before entering; yes, this is the world we currently live in).

This is the first year in a long time when we didn’t go to any live events, be they sporting, graduations or concerts. In the PVDs (pre-COVID days), it wasn’t unusual for my wife and me to dine out two or three times a week. But we haven’t eaten in a restaurant in months.

Of course, all the inconvenience pales in comparison to the lives lost this year. Or the lives isolated this year. Our aunt entered a nursing home in February. The last time we saw her up close where we could hug her was March. Millions of people can relate to this.

Yes, 2020 was truly a year to forget.

Yet, despite all the bad, there was some good to come out of this new way of living. Just had to look a bit for it. Due to the shutting down of colleges, our son spent his last months in law school at home with us. He also spent his time studying for the bar at home. He also took the bar exam at home. In effect, we got to spend five extra months with him. It was a nice bonding experience.

My wife has been working from home since March. Part of our ping-pong room has become her office away from her office. Sure, ping-pong is much more restricted now. Once you run into a desk chasing a ball, you learn to tame it down a bit. But outside of that it’s been nice having her around all day. We can do lunch together daily. Quite frankly, our dog loves having her mom home as much as I do. (Note, I’m not sure my wife is as thrilled with being around me all day.)

One advantage of her being home is she really learned to master sourdough bread. I’m not sure why so many people dove into sourdough this pandemic, but some good did come out of this down time.

Also, this has been a boon for Zoom. I’ve taken tai chi via Zoom. I’ve done all sorts of education sessions via Zoom. I’ve learned a lot. Mostly I’ve learned that I often forget to hit unmute before talking.

For the last few years, I’ve been saying, “You know, honey, wouldn’t it be great if we put a pickleball court in the yard?” To which my wife (the practical one) would say, “Probably not a great idea.” This year when I asked, “Should we build a pickleball court in the yard?” my wife said, “Yeah that’s a good idea. We can get our exercise.” So, we built a pickleball court in our backyard and added a patio so we could still entertain and exercise safely outside. Which I’ve got to admit really made the entire year more bearable. Human interaction, exercise and sunlight (vitamin D) are good for the mind and the body. One evening while playing pickleball we got to see the comet, which was an unexpected surprise.

My point being, yeah there was a lot of darkness to 2020. Way darker than any year I can remember. Yet even in the darkest times we can still find some good, something positive. We just need to look a little harder.

John Zakour lives in Geneva. He is a freelance humor writer with a BA in Computer Science from SUNY Potsdam, a master’s in human behavior and a Chief Happiness Practitioner. He has sold thousands of gags to strips and magazines and had over 50 books published. He writes his own syndicated comic, “Working Daze,” which has anywhere from 30K-100K daily readers. His “Positive Vibes” column runs every other Tuesday. Contact him at johnzakour@gmail.com.

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