I’ve watched many movies and absent-mindedly flipped through the pages of stories which revolved around Alzheimer’s – until my Appa got diagnosed. That’s when it actually hit me like a bullet, and the reality and cruelty of it started to dawn on me.

It started early for him due to brain surgery, back in 1999, when I was little. First, it was the keys that he forgot; then memories of where he parked his car slipped his mind; later he started forgetting his friends, our names, important dates – and it only got worse. We used to laugh it off, like when he placed the dishes in the washing machine instead of the sink. It used to be funny until we realised there’s no turning back.

I was daddy’s girl and we used to share a very special bond. He knew every detail of my life, and I, every one of his sorrows and worries which he kept from the rest of the world.

Appa used to take me out for dinner, and sometimes supper. We went on long drives. I still remember how the both of us would sing along to a peppy Tamil song every morning when he drove me to school. It was our song, Appa.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine this dreaded day would come, when we hardly exchange a word, when conversations tire him, and he is no longer interested in the events of my life. The man who was once a brave heart, a roaring lion, now needs to be kept watch at all times and be taken care of like a child. Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing him like this.

We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun; we had it all, but most of all, we had each other, Appa. You gave me the most beautiful days of my entire existence – I will always be grateful for that. Times gone by can never be reversed, but they can and will always be cherished.

It’s sad that he can’t remember the great times we had, but I will remember them for both of us.

Lucky are the girls who still have their fathers when they are in their youth.

I always wanted to show him the man I fall in love with, my achievements, my milestones. But, most of all, I need his wisdom to guide me through life.

Don’t mistake me – my Appa is still around but he is not the man I knew. He is a completely different person, more like a shadow of the person he once was.

So here is my 23-year-old self, dedicating this to my first love, the one and only true hero I’ve ever known, the first gentleman who treated me like a princess.

Thank you, Appa, for setting the standards for how a man should treat me, for all the lessons, the fun and secrets that we shared, the laughter and tears, for every time you made me laugh when I didn’t even want to smile, for all the time we argued and so much more.

I am a better woman because of you, Appa, I owe that to you. I love you, Appa, I always have and always will. From your little girl.