The other night, my wife declared we were getting old.

God willing, we will continue to get older for many more years, but the inspiration for her statement was our son, Alek's, 17th birthday.

Although it was probably his worst birthday, since he spent it at home sick, it gave my wife and I reason to stop and realize where we are in our lives.

It is not like we are going to have any more children or want to for that matter, but the years have flown by, and we're not completely ready for an empty nest.

Our daughter, Claire, is a college student now and misses us so much that when she came home last weekend to see her boyfriend, who was home from a different college she stopped to shop and see a friend before coming home to drop off her laundry.

I find myself stuck between being proud Claire is growing up and doesn't need our help as much and wishing she needed our help more.

Maybe if she doesn't need help, she could at least act like she misses us.

In truth, it is nice to see her off on her own. I only have a general idea of what her days are like, but unlike when she lived at home, her whereabouts are her own business now.

Although it's only been about three weeks since she became a college student, she has learned to play that up.

Last weekend, I was the go-between for Claire and her mom, who wanted her to help clean the house.

Claire told me she no longer lived at home. I relayed the message. I cleaned the house.

Alek, who still lives at home technically is rarely there. Home to him these days is a refrigerator, a bed and Xbox.

It took an illness for him to stay home and spend time with Mom and Dad. I'm amazed he survived it.

Our home has long been a place for our children's friends to congregate, so if we see Alek coming through the door he usually is followed by three or four others. Or they come in and out of our house like it is their own.

We always have had an open-door policy, so kids coming in beats me having to answer the door. Just means we have to keep the fridge stocked.

But in a couple years, when Alek is packed up and gone, it will mean the revolving door will stop, and we will miss all the activity in our home.

As much as I miss having Claire around, I am amazed at how little laundry we have without her.

Even though she has brought her dirty clothes home, we only have to wash clothes once a week. No one else changes outfits several times a day.

I cannot help but wonder what the grocery bill will be like when Alek leaves home.

One day last weekend, Alek and Claire were gone, and it was just me and my wife. There was no cooking, just warming up leftovers.

Our grocery bill will shrink to the point it will probably amaze us. I envision the savings will make us very rich.

But in order for that to happen, time will have to keep moving, and my wife and I will keep getting older.

Patrick Murphy, of Columbus, Neb., is the former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.