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Column - Missing a finger

I've always been so used to having five fingers.

When I was 5, I would count my age on my fingers all the time. Five was a good number. It wasn't easy to forget and it always seemed whole and perfect.

I guess it was because five was the number of people in my family.

A mom, a dad, two sons, and a daughter - the number was odd, always having one man out when we went on roller coasters, and never having equal teams for board games. Still, it was family and to me, it was perfect.

But soon my perfect family will become four.

Four isn't whole; it's missing a part - missing a finger.

Entering grade school, kindergartners are taught the steps of life.

First, we are born into a family, and raised. Then we become an adult, grow old and eventually die.

But at the beginning, a family composed of parents and children live together for numerous years. They start to understand each other's habits and find what ticks each other off.

But just when they think their family is perfect - someone leaves.

I could never fully grasp that concept - someone leaving. That one day the kids would leave the parents and each other.

I joked about my brother and me leaving a lot, but it was never a reality.

To me, my brother and I were yin and yang - we were sometimes polar opposites, but in a strange way we completed one another.

Sure, we fought, but doesn't every brother and sister?

He hated me because I was the princess and always got what I wanted.

I hated him because he was older, so always right. He was the captain and I was the first mate, he was the executive chef and I was the sous.

Yet oddly enough, I idolized him.

I wore his hand-me-downs, played with his friends and never left his side.

Even at night our bedrooms were always next to one another.

But now that room that has always been the constant in my life has become forlorn and empty.

The mattress lies bare without its dressing; dust piles on a bookshelf without books; stray pieces of paper linger on the floor.

I walked into this room and was instantly filled with remorse.

Reality hit - my brother was leaving.

Never in the past 17 years have my brother and I left each other's side.

We were born one year, six months and 24 days apart - but everyone thought we were twins.

We both are tall with brown hair and blue eyes. And always think we are right.

Growing up, we did everything together

We would play pirates and fight over who got the black pirate hat; we had chicken pox and braces and played the same sports. We even kept one another company if one of us was grounded.

We hid clams in the folds of blankets during dinner and slept under blanket-tents in the yard.

We made pickles and orange juice and fought against the dragon for the princess.

We auditioned for our first play together and raced each other during our first swim meet.

I started playing percussion because he played it and I always took the same classes that he did.

But now he is leaving.

A few years from now we will both be done with college and have jobs.

Perhaps we will be in the same state, even the same city, but then again perhaps not.

We may have families or be living alone.

We might see one another again, or might not.

It's hard to think that I could move on from 17 years with him. But I have to, don't I?

My brother and I are not twins, even though everyone says we are - because twins leave at the same time.

For 17 years we've had each other's back though and taken care of one another.

But we aren't even in a reasonable driving distance, so how can we continue to have each other's backs - we can't even reach them?

In kindergarten they taught us the steps of life. But they also taught us that everyone has five fingers.

Then why is one of mine missing? Will life go on - if I only have four?

Like tying my shoe, I'll have to learn how to live. Trying over and over again.

But I guess it's not like tying my shoe, because this time, my brother won't be teaching me how.

"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.