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Dad Daze: There’s reason to give thanks in 2020

Eddie Condran, Ed Condran and Milo Condran visited Mount Rainier National Park in July.  (Ed Condran/The Spokesman-Review)
Eddie Condran, Ed Condran and Milo Condran visited Mount Rainier National Park in July. (Ed Condran/The Spokesman-Review)

If there has ever been a year in which it’s easy to be anything but thankful, it’s 2020. Since the novel coronavirus has altered life as we know it, we’ve had to make myriad adjustments.

Masks are mandatory. We must be socially distant. Virtual learning is the norm. Concerts are on ice for the foreseeable future. Youth sports has become an exercise in futility.

Once again, if you would rather not cook at home, the only recourse is takeout. And the coronavirus numbers are spiking, particularly in Washington. Public health officials are warning against anyone hosting Thanksgiving gatherings, which is a not-so-gentle reminder that life remains awry.

However, it’s easy to look at the glass being half full – or, in the case of 2020, broken. I decided to look at all that my family and I are thankful for in 2020, and there’s more than I could write about in a column.

“Your timing is impeccable,” The Spokesman-Review managing editor Joe Palmquist cracked when chatting about my decision to join the newspaper nine days before the pandemic changed everything in March.

There is nothing like looking for a home in Spokane when you can’t actually walk into a house. But I’m so thankful that I agreed to become a features writer here.

It seems as if years have passed since I visited Seattle for my ill-conceived “the upside of the coronavirus” feature in early March. Back then, I thought the coronavirus would be just a little speed bump, but was I ever mistaken. That feature never ran, but the memories remain.

After my son Milo and I walked through the ghost town that was Seattle, which was the epicenter of the coronavirus in America nearly nine months ago, it became evident that it was time to return to Spokane.

Two weeks before starting at the newspaper, I asked South Hill’s Myles Kennedy why he has remained in Spokane even though the Alter Bridge singer-songwriter could easily relocate to a ZIP code that is deemed by many as more enviable.

“When I fly into the airport here, the word I feel is solace,” Kennedy said. “I look at that skyline, and I know I’m home. I travel all over the world, and I see a lot of amazing cities, but there’s no place like where I’m at now. You have the mountains and the lakes in Coeur d’Alene.”

I scored a similar response from longtime NHL referee Dennis LaRue, who lives downtown but has probably experienced more of America than Kennedy since he cut his teeth in myriad minor league cities.

I can’t tell you how often Milo, 15, and my other son Eddie 18, spent leaping into Lake Coeur d’Alene during the summer. We’re so thankful we’ve been able to take advantage of the great outdoors in the Idaho Panhandle.

“I can smell the pine trees through the car window,” Milo said when we were 20 minutes east of Coeur d’Alene after driving across the country. I’m so thankful for that journey since we avoided illness and were just blown away by how different the topography is throughout the nation.

Milo has been counting the days so he can return to his beloved Schweitzer Mountain to ski and snowboard.

And then there is the lush Evergreen State. The coronavirus can take away a great deal of what we’re used to, but we realized that it’s relatively safe out in the great wide open. There was plenty of social distance between us and other bikers along Centennial Trail.

Hiking through gorgeous Mount Rainier was one of our favorite experiences of the year. Eddie loved skateboarding through Riverfront Park. My boys enjoyed playing baseball and hanging around with their teammates from the Spokane Expos over the summer.

What we’re most thankful for is our interactions with those in the community. For me, I’ve never been around a staff like the one that produces your daily source of news. I have never met anyone like Rob Curley, an innovator who understands the business as well as journalism. You’re in good hands with Rob and his crew.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what I’m most thankful for, and that’s the readership. I’ve been in a few different markets, and I’ve never received so many sincere and well-crafted letters. Thank you for your feedback and for making me feel welcome. Subscribers really care about what lands in their newspaper, and that only inspires me to work harder.

During a news meeting just before the coronavirus hit, a great idea floated by deputy features editor Kimberly Lusk was, “2020, how do we see Spokane?” Well, nobody saw the havoc spawned by the coronavirus.

I see a city that has yet to meet its potential, and I predict our city will leap into another echelon by 2030. The seeds are planted for considerable growth and development. There are so many reasons for excitement if you can look past the pandemic.

Spokane is on the verge of something special, and my family is very thankful to be part of an exciting transformation and Thanksgivings that smack of the traditional.

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