I promised myself never to allow this column to become maudlin – passionate perhaps, but not sentimental or hokey. Real men, whether on the street, or on the stool for that matter, shouldn’t get choked up or allow their emotions to show.

Having said that, I’m going to share, at the risk of confusing you, a profound personal experience, which many of you have no doubt faced and handled better than me.

My second wife of twenty-seven years and I have one child, a beautiful daughter born late in my 41st year.

To say the least, I was the oldest guy by nearly 20 years in my Lamaze class. Lamaze was not an option when my two adult children were born from an earlier marriage.

While hospitals (a subject for a later column), after graveyards, are my least favorite place in the world, I attended every class and was literally able to receive my daughter at the moment of her birth – an extraordinary experience!

As we were unable, on a day-to-day basis, to share in much of my older children’s lives as they lived with their mom after the divorce, we included our baby in virtually all of our activities whenever possible. A restaurant that wouldn’t take babies wouldn’t take us. We traveled as three.

It is almost impossible to believe and even harder to accept that 18 years have elapsed – from 5Ό pounds – jaundice – first words – first step – first fall – broken arm – first play – first instrument – orthodonture – pudgy – skinny – shy – loud – nervous – confident – first brassiere – closed doors – computer – boyfriends – drivers license – S.A.T.’s – beautiful young woman – college.

The millennium life changes have been profound for our family, including retirement and relocation, but nothing really prepared us for the September weekend we left our baby in Boston to begin her adult life on her own.

There is great joy associated with observing your youngest adapt to a totally new environment with thousands of new people, from all over the world, without a hitch. There is relief at no cries for help – and at the same time sadness.

Six weeks later – Parents Weekend. Waiting at the Kenmore Square T Station in front of the Barnes & Noble book store – watching this animated couple approach hand in hand – our daughter and her boyfriend visiting for the weekend from New York University – made the emotions associated with graduation pale by comparison. As glad to see us as we to see her? At least for now, yes!

From Quincy Market to the North End. From Harvard Square to Bay State Road. From Kenmore Square to Back Bay on this glorious early Fall weekend – wall to wall students – hard not to feel a bit old – a little nostalgic – but filled with great joy for the limitless opportunities available to these bright kids kicking off a new century.

Can’t think of anything more distressing than leaving the baby, than perhaps never having the chance to do so.