I went down for the count on Christmas day.

Christmas Eve was one of those nights when I woke up several times after midnight, not from excitement about the next morning but because I was trying to find a comfortable (enough) position.  By 5:00am I was lying in bed, staring at the dark ceiling and trying to pinpoint exactly what was wrong.  By 5:30am I was hacking up a lung (Feliz Navidad!), so I quickly slipped out of the room.

At 6:00am T-man found me trying to cough silently at the kitchen table.  This involves a great deal of contained barking and sputtering and shaking – it isn’t pretty.  I guess T-man figured this was as good a time as any to shoot the breeze, the dogs heard him and went nuts in the bedroom, BrightSide stumbled into the hallway as the mutts scrambled to race him out, and the next thing I knew T-man was hollering upstairs, “BEAR!  Come on down!  Everyone’s awake and ready to open presents!!”

Which is how “I think I’m dying” turned into crack of dawn Christmas 2016.

The upside to crack of dawn Christmas was that I crashed out on our couch by 9:00am.  The downside was that we were leaving town the next day and I was doing exactly nothing to prepare.  It was a very “oh well, everyone will just have to do the best they can” breakdown in the travel system at our house.

We stopped at Walgreens on our way out of town to stock up on essentials – plane snacks, sunglasses, every pair of Sea Bands they had, Bonine (‘cuz I was not fooling around with nausea this time), Sudafed, nasal spray, Pepto Bismol tablets, and Immodium (‘cuz Mexico).  This poor checkout lady looked in our basket then glanced up, horrified, to see who was dying…and there I stood, blowing my nose and staring glassy eyed at the floor.  To say she seemed concerned would be an understatement.

But off we went, proximity to death be damned.  Because I could be miserably sick on my couch, or I could be miserably sick by a pool.  I chose the latter.

In a perfect world this story would end here with “The plane landed and, miracle of miracles, it only took a day of ocean air to bounce me back to my hale and hearty self.”  I think you all know that’s not how life goes, though.

But I will tell you how having an elephant sit on my chest was different in Mexico.

It was a slow recovery but nighttime was always the worst.  No matter how well the day had gone, regardless of how little I coughed while getting ready for bed, as soon as I climbed between those sheets all bets were off.  I’d start coughing.  And coughing.  And the harder I tried to hold it in, the harder my body fought me.

So every night I ended up slipping out onto our balcony, partly so my family could sleep and partly so I could cough without trying to stuff it back down.  It was as win/win as I was gonna get.

Except it turned out our balcony looked over the ocean, and there was a cushioned bench perfect for curling up on if you needed to choke for a while.  (Or, you know, look at the stars and stuff.)

My nightly balcony isolation turned out to be invaluable.  On those evenings I watched the ocean and listened to the waves.  I looked at the stars, searching for familiar constellations and getting lost in the night sky.  Maybe it wasn’t ideal, seeing as I was taking it all in between coughing spells.

But I’ll take ocean waves over couch time any day.