My oldest daughter earns her bachelor’s degree in graphic design from Loyola University in New Orleans this week.

Where did those 22 years go?

I remember when Claire was 4 weeks old. She watched with me as my alma mater — the University of Arizona — won its first and only national college basketball championship in 1997. Well, mostly she slept on my chest as I cheered silently.

When she graduated from kindergarten at Sacred Heart Cathedral School, I have a crystal clear memory of her wearing a white gown with a red tassel on her cap and flashing me the “hang loose” sign, while sticking out her tongue.

What a goofball.

As a divorced father, I continued to stay involved in her life.

I would knock off work early on Wednesdays to pick up her and her younger sister, Sarah, from school. We would go to the playground, watch Disney movies or do something else fun. I would root her on at soccer games and try to pick her out on stage and listen for her voice at her Pensacola Children’s Chorus performances.

We developed a few traditions over the years, too.

Every Saturday during the summer, we would beat the rush to Pensacola Beach in the mornings and leave around noon when traffic to the beach began to back up across Three-Mile Bridge. When Claire and Sarah were younger, I’d make cheesy scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon and toast for them just the way they liked it. For the last few years, we would swing through Starbucks’ drive-thru for coffee after church.

It's so satisfying to watch my Claire grow up into a smart, compassionate young woman. She became a National Merit Finalist at Pensacola High School’s International Baccalaureate program. She earned a full ride at Loyola.

At Loyola, she participated in a student ministry retreat, Awakening, becoming one of the leaders last semester. Last year, Claire did a student-exchange program in Mexico City, where she visited several art museums and ancient Aztec and Mayan ruins.

Good thing we stayed close. I read somewhere that father-daughter relationships can be critical to success.

You are so special to me, Claire Bear. I can’t wait to know you at 30, 40, 50 and beyond.

Duwayne Escobedo covers Santa Rosa County for the Daily News. You can contact him at 850-315-4489 in Fort Walton Beach, on his cell phone at 255-1484 or email him at