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Caregiving Strengthens a Marriage

The late English novelist Iris Murdoch's husband, John Bayley, reflects on caring for her when she had advanced Alzheimer's and could no longer remember having written 26 novels, winning the Booker Prize, receiving several honorary degrees and becoming a Dame of the British Empire:

1 December 1997 (I think, a Sunday anyway.)

Life is no longer bringing the pair of us "closer and closer apart," in the poet's tenderly ambiguous words. Every day we move closer and closer together. We could not do otherwise. There is a certain comic irony - happily not darkly comic - that after more than 40 years of taking marriage for granted, marriage has decided it is tired of this, and is taking a hand in the game. Purposefully, persistently, involuntarily, our marriage is now getting somewhere. It is giving us no choice: and I am glad of that. Every day we are physically closer; and Iris's little "mouse cry," as I think of it, signifying loneliness in the next room, the wish to be back beside me, seems less and less forlorn, more simple, more natural. She is not sailing into the dark: the voyage is over, and under the dark escort of Alzheimer's she has arrived somewhere. So have I.

- John Bayley, Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch (Duckworth, 2002).
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