And then there were none.

That noise I'm not hearing is my children.

As of Friday, my wife, Kelly, and I are officially empty-nesters.

Not sure I like this.

Claire went back to college as a junior at Wayne State, and Alek is a freshman there.

After a tearful goodbye Friday when we took Alek to college for a three-day orientation before classes started Monday, my wife and I drove home.

Claire was still home for another day. She was not moving back until Saturday, an old-pro in this college transition stuff.

That wasn't the case her freshman year.

She was the first to move away from home, and the three of us cried and cried when it came time for Mom and Dad to go one direction and Claire another.

Although you know this day is coming, and you raise your kids with this day in mind, it is still hard to pull yourself away from your child.

I felt so bad watching Claire walk away by herself to her dorm room where a complete stranger awaited her.

Alek has it easier. He will room with one of his best friends.

It's always easier to go through a new experience with a good friend.

They will lean on each other as they learn to be off on their own as young adults.

There also will be a learning curve for my wife and I. For 21 years, we have been parents with at least one child living at home.

Before that, we spent four married years without children. But there's a difference between not having children and saying goodbye to them.

My wife and I joke about how few groceries we'll need to buy and what cooking for two will be like, but that will be a change that won't come without a little sadness.

It's one thing to ask if they'll be around for dinner or out with their friends, it's another to not have to ask.

This is foreign territory for me. I like to know how things are going to turn out. I don't get upset if you tell me how a book or a movie ends, but no one knows what the next day will hold, let alone how it ends.

This has been a year of changes in our family, from buying a newspaper to saying goodbye to our youngest.

Yet, this is where we should be in our lives. You raise your kids to say goodbye even if it means choking up just thinking about it.

It is not without its rewards, though.

It's been great watching Claire grow as a college student, and I'm looking forward to seeing the changes in Alek.

I'll also be watching to see how he develops as a college baseball player.

Although I'll go from hardly missing any games, to missing most of them, I look forward to watching him when I can.

That is how life works. I never gave much thought to my parents dropping me off at college and returning to an empty nest. I was too busy adjusting to being on my own.

You wouldn't want your children being too homesick; they have more important tasks ahead.

So as tough as it was to drive off, it's part of life's journey for all of us.

Our kids are in college, and now Kelly and I will start on our next journey.

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