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Photo courtesy of Miguel Torres


When she was little, I somehow became her pet dragon. I don't recall exactly when she christened me, but we shared this world for several years.

I would make a whimpering sound, which we instinctively knew to be a sound a pet dragon would make, and she would smile, laugh as only a toddler can, and jump on my back for a ride. She brought magic into my life in a way I had never dreamed possible.

She graduated from high school Saturday night, so accomplished, so beautiful, so ready to take on the world. She'll never need her pet dragon in quite the same way -- and hasn't for a long time, actually.

That's not her problem, of course. Instead, it is the lament of every father who has watched daddy's little girl become her own amazing woman.

I spent much of the day making light of the moment: Did we ever doubt she'd graduate from high school? What's all the fuss about?

My Facebook friends and I had an amusing exchange about silly class songs and mottos. Victoria East's motto this year came from a Drake song: "Started from the bottom, and now we're here." What does that even mean and how in the world does it relate to graduation? Drake is not even as deep as Buckaroo Banzai: "No matter where you go, there you are."

I'm not singling out East, though. For all I know, my class of 1978 motto was "Get Down Boogie Oogie Oogie." Or "Grease is the Word." Or "Three Times a Lady." Ugh. Let's hope not.

East's class of 2013 even had a flower: a red rose. Taking his cue from "The Bachelor," did the principal ask each graduate approaching the stage, "Will you accept this rose?"

Sitting more than two hours on a bench Saturday night in Memorial Stadium, I had plenty of time to study Victoria West's graduation program. Class flower? A daisy, also for reasons unknown. Song? "Radioactive," about a post-apocalyptic world of a vague sort.

In the melee that followed the ceremony, we found our daughter on the 20-yard-line, gave her lots of hugs and took many photos. Emotions filled the field from every direction, but I couldn't put into words how much my baby girl meant to me.

In the fastest 18 years of my life, she gave me so much, taught me about living, and made me a better man. A daughter's love will do that to you. She leaves for college soon, and our home won't be the same.

Pet dragon is a memory now. No longer can he swoop up the little girl bundled up in her towel after a bath, lift her onto his lap and sing "All My Loving." The song in a father's heart plays on after the girl is gone.