Now, even with the best of health, going to your girlfriend's parents house for Christmas for the first time is generally not a happy-go-lucky experience. You've got to be on your toes, at the ready to help with any chores. Every interaction is a somewhat calculated to make the best impression. You meet relatives that have yet to give the stamp of approval. Maybe some family drama even pops up. In short, it's not the most relaxing of holidays, even if the family is easy to get along with as was my case.
Things started out pretty great. I met grandpa and was allowed to hang around due to matching alma maters. Christmas morning was full of slowly dolled out presents, most of which seemed to go over well. Grete, her dad, and I took a wonderfully chilly bike ride on frozen lakes in subzero temperatures that made me forget all the sweaty days under the Brazilian sun. We ended the day stuffing our faces with turkey, potatoes, and other delicious grub. I tucked into bed with a full stomach thinking this week is gonna be a breeze.
But a rumble in my stomach early the next morning had other ideas. I spent the morning worshiping the porcelain god and reliving the delicious dinner. After I felt like things had cleared up, I waltzed up the stairs, announced I had just had too much turkey, and decided I would be absolutely fine. What followed was five days of drifting in and out of fever, coughing, sneezing, shivering, sweating, and just about any other symptom you can think of. Any hopes of putting on the pounds I'd lost in Brazil went down the drain. I took on the role of reclusive guest, only appearing to grab food when I felt hungry enough or take a trip to the bathroom. Grete and her family were wonderful caretakers, but it's hard to feel good about impressions when you're wallowing in your own sweat and phlegm. Still, I wasn't booted out of the house, and by all accounts, I'm still reasonably well liked. So I'd say it was a roaring success.
But I didn't want my parents to miss out on all the fun too. I was still have feverish nights when Grete and I went to my parents house 3 days after my sickness began. My fever spiked on that fourth night to almost 103, and I shuffled in a bathrobe over to the neighbor's dinner party where Grete and my parents were, and asked to be taken to the ER. Not my greatest moment as a dinner guest. But off to the ER we went, to spend some quality time with Grete and my parents.
I was concerned I had malaria, given my refusal to take Malarone and cyclical fever. The doctor thought it was a distinct possibility, but quickly clarified, "I don't think we've ever tested for that here. I think the lab has the test, but I honestly couldn't tell you." So they tested me for the flu first. When the test came back positive, the ever chipper doc walked back in and said, "I've never said these two things together, but congrats, you have the flu!" I was happy as could be knowing I had a sickness that would pass and I wouldn't be getting on a plane in a couple of days with anything more serious living inside of me. So we left the hospital after a few hours, in good spirits despite me shuffling a bathrobe clutching a Gatorade.
So the next time you find yourself with a significant other's parents wishing you could get out of an uncomfortable dinner, just remember: You could be vomiting in their toilet. You could be sweating and shivering away on their couch. You could even be hanging out in the ER on a Friday night looking for tropical diseases in your blood. So it wasn't the most picturesque of Christmas, but it was memorable. And I got to spend it with the people I care about the most. So I can't complain.