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In our family, we like to engage in group sports activities, because we have fun and learn more about each other as human beings. For example, without the sport of skiing, I would never have found out what the inside of my wife's left knee looks like.

This came about because of an unplanned skiing maneuver that Beth performed in Colorado ("The People On Crutches State"). Beth and I were attempting to ski, as a family, with our son, Rob, who, being 12, is not legally required to obey the laws of gravity. Rob skis the way the Road Runner runs in cartoons. He looks for the steepest, scariest slope, one where the bottom is littered with the carcasses of mountain goats and professional rock climbers. Without pausing, he launches himself off the edge, stops in midair to look around for several seconds, then whoosh, turns into a blur and zips to the bottom, where he turns back and shouts impatiently, "Come on! Beep, beep!!"

Then Beth and I, playing the part of stupid old Wile E. Coyote, inch our way cautiously to the edge and start to descend the slope at about the same velocity as one of your less-active glaciers, sometimes getting as far as 18 inches before our skis -- these are rental skis, and they can smell fear in a person -- become skittish and attempt to flee in opposite directions, causing us to collapse like cheap tents in a high wind.

This is what happened to Beth in Colorado. I looked back and saw her lying on the slope directly under a chairlift, in great pain, with two ski-patrol guys kneeling next to her, administering first aid to her knee and building a little shelter to protect her from the thick storm of business cards being dropped from the chairlift by personal-injury attorneys.

So we went to the hospital, where a doctor explained, with the aid of an extremely detailed life-size model, how the human knee joint works. (Not very well, is the answer.) I didn't catch everything he said; I'm not good at looking directly at medical things.

So I was swaying gently back and forth, like a palm tree about to lose its lunch, and the doctor was thrusting this realistic model knee joint at me and saying, "OK, you see this ligament? Your wife snapped this ligament. It's gone. So now her leg can do this." Here he picked up Beth's lower leg and moved it in a way that clearly indicated that it was not fully attached to her upper leg. "See this movement?" the doctor was saying. "This is wrong!" At one point I believe he took Beth's lower leg completely out of the room, but I can't be certain because by then I was sitting on the floor and my body had wisely shut down the blood flow to my brain.

So we came back home to Miami and met with more doctors, who also had knee models. (I am thinking of carrying one around myself, to scare off muggers.) Each doctor found more things wrong with Beth's knee. Beth decided that she'd better have knee surgery right away, because the way the diagnoses were escalating, it was only a matter of time before the doctors started talking heart transplant.

So I took Beth in for surgery, and they wheeled her off to the operating room. I was reassured to note that they had used a felt-tipped marker to put an "X" on her left foot, so the doctor would know which leg to operate on.

After I had been in the waiting room for about eight years, the surgeon came out. He had good news and bad news. The good news was that the operation went fine. The bad news was that he had taken color Polaroid photographs of the inside of Beth's knee. Suddenly, with no advance warning, he was thrusting these at me, right there in the waiting room. "And this," he was saying, quite enthusiastically, "is her ligament stump."

I don't know about you, but I think there should be a certain amount of mystery about a woman.

Anyway, Beth is going to be OK, and I have to say that, even though this was not a pleasant experience, I was impressed with the way the health-care system operated. The only major area where I see a need for improvement -- Hillary Clinton, take note -- is that Colorado should be much flatter.

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