Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Dec. 1, 2006

Big brother

Our Thanksgiving holiday last week included celebrating daughter Katherine's and brother Dave's birthdays. While Katie just turned 14, Dave is now right next door to being six decades old. He said the thought of turning 60 next year is somewhat daunting.

But even more daunting for him now is his recent diagnosis of prostate cancer after a routine blood test showed that his PSA level was slightly elevated. The doctor ordered a biopsy and, of the 16 areas tested, eight came back positive for cancer. Unlike many other cancers, the prognosis for those with prostate cancer is generally good if it's caught in time.

Still, it worries me. I don't think anyone can hear the "C" word without being concerned. As husband Art says, though, it doesn't do any good to worry. So I'm trying to concentrate on how much I enjoy Dave.

When I look at my brother, I see our Dad. People say that Dave and I have Dad's facial features and body build whereas sister Gaila looks more like Mom. As Dave has gotten older, the resemblance to Dad is even more noticeable. And we all exhibit the shyness Dad had.

When I was little, Dave - older by almost six years - was the much-adored big brother. An early photo of the two of us shows him in a big overstuffed chair holding me. As I got older and started walking, he considered me somewhat of a pest, just as all older brothers do, I suspect. He teased me and Gaila as often as possible - or so it seemed.

But we had him pegged pretty early on. Another photo shows Dave dressed as a ghost and me in my playpen tugging at the sheet that served as his costume. Even then, his gentle nature came through and I wasn't fooled one bit by him trying to scare me.

As Dave got older, Gaila and I wanted to tag along, except maybe when he and cousin Ron went hunting for quail or when he and California cousins Bob and Jeff jumped out of the hay loft, homemade capes flying, during their Superman antics.

The three of us have fond memories of growing up on the farm. We gardened, "swam" in the cattle tank, took care of chickens, worked on 4-H projects, raked leaves, made snow forts, had sword fights with icicles, rode the sled while Dad pulled it behind the pickup on icy country roads and celebrated Christmas with cedar trees cut from the pasture.

Even as a young farm boy, Dave, who is a certified public accountant, had business leanings. One time, he cut the milo heads left by the combine and took them to the elevator for a bit of extra cash. He also made money by selling eggs and working on summer projects with cousin Jeff. One such endeavor was a shoe scraper made of pop bottle caps nailed upside down on a board.

Dave also researched other projects, such as raising chinchillas for their fur. But this idea never saw the light of day. How could it? This was the boy who rescued a rabbit from Dad's plow and kept it as a pet - and the same boy who had a pet hamster. A chinchilla operation probably would have just meant more furry pets running around the farm.

Dave's young-at-heart attitude can be seen in the items he collects: John Deere miniatures, Pepsi collectibles, old TV Guides and Beatles albums, books and figures.

When he was at our house for Thanksgiving, he looked in college daughter Mariya's bedroom, which still has so much stuff in it, it looks like she still lives with us.

"I'm amazed at how much Mariya and I have the same tastes," he exclaimed, as he pointed out her "Harry Potter," "Star Wars," "Lord of the Rings," Garfield and "X-Men" posters.

Yet while Dave is a gentle and easy-going man - just like Dad was - he's also tough, having come through several car accidents, a bout with an auto-immune disease called idiopathic purpura and three back surgeries.

So, while nothing is guaranteed, I'm hoping that we have many more Thanksgivings that include two birthdays.

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