My Step-Sister Debbie died sometime last night of cancer on the other side of the world.
I suppose I knew Debbie best when we were both teenagers. I don’t actually remember first meeting her, but for a while she lived in London with David, Helen, Danny and later Aviva. She was only fifty miles from where I was living in Cambridge and I got to see quite a lot of her.
Thinking about Debbie brings back a raft of memories of the flats in Moscow Road; the constant sound of dripping water out the back, and the city smells and sounds of Bayswater. Inside the flat the smell of last night’s whisky and cigarettes.
For about six years Debbie was a big part of my life, and in some ways, despite being a younger sister was very influential to me. I think her easy friendship and sense of fun helped me out of a rather grim part of my life and brought a bit of sunshine to my disposition.
I had lived a rather sheltered life for a teenager, and Debbie introduced me to the importance of Jeans, the music of Bob Dylan and Cat Stephens, and I’m not sure about this, but I think also encouraged me to play guitar which I still enjoy to this day.
I have many happy memories of staying in Moscow Road, and Debbie and I would take Aviva to the park so that we could smoke surreptitious cigarettes.
I have always felt that Debbie grabbed life and extracted happiness from it. She was creative, and I remember her poetry and writing, but she was also adventurous. She had a lot of friends who she was happy to share.
Later, when the family moved to America, I spent a very happy summer with her and Karen Swirsky in Leonia, Debbie again sharing her friends and spurring the two of us on to adventures.
Sadly, we have been separated by continents much of the rest of our lives. I have seen her on, I reckon, three occasions in the last thirty years, but when we have seen each other there has always been an instant reconnection.
I feel I know her quite well from her books, which I feel express her in a stark and honest way.
The last time I saw Debbie was eleven years ago, she was a bit fraught over some domestic difficulty, and we took the dog for a long walk and I was happy to be her sounding board.
I love Debbie, and I am sad that she has died and that there won’t be another chance to take the dog for a walk and have a chat.