Rebecca Tortello | Remembering Uncle Eddie – Part Two
There are many things I admire about my uncle – his indefatigable energy, his brilliant mind, his strong sense of commitment, his work ethic, his ability to take the path less travelled and perhaps, most of all, his never-ending curiosity and respect for all things cultural.
Having been fortunate enough to have accompanied him on different occasions in his beloved constituency and other areas of this island that he loved beyond measure, I witnessed at first hand how very real his interactions with all sectors of society were.
Uncle Eddie was at home on an elderly lady’s rural front porch as he was in a football stadium, on the campaign trail or in Jamaica House or Gordon House. One of my favourite memories is of him trying so desperately to get me to listen to opera on a transatlantic flight to Italy when he was prime minister, and I was just finishing my freshman year in which I had studied Italian, and then visiting Florence with him and sharing in his delight at the marvels of that beautiful city.
Another was attending different Revivalist-related activities with him, during which he patiently answered my questions and observed all that transpired with keen, interested eyes and captive attention.
Another is of trekking through fields to visit our ancestor, Alexander Heron’s, burial space in Manchester, as both of us were trying to figure out the family tree he would eventually detail in his biography.
Yet another is of attending a Harvard reunion with him and sharing in his delight at the memories of his time in that magical place.
Blessed with a sharp, active mind and imagination throughout his years, Uncle Eddie always walked with a little notebook in which he jotted down ideas and thoughts that he would come back to and ponder more deeply. These notes varied widely, but often they centred on ways to improve the country he called home.
This nation owes him a debt of gratitude and history will celebrate him accordingly. He was the best kind of activist – one who had ideas, set goals, and worked tirelessly with great dedication and determination to see them bring about change.
I will miss seeing my uncle at home surrounded by the plants and flowers in which he took great solace and, of course, listening to him carefully explain the many items he collected over the years. I will miss seeing him playing with his dogs in whom he took great delight – he always had dogs as far back as I can remember – a practice he inherited from his father, as I have no memory of my grandfather without a little dog by his side.
I will miss seeing him take out his comb, because he always had one with him, as he hated his hair to be untidy. I will miss having someone in my family who shares my sweet tooth, and I will miss my call every December, “I’ll pick you up around 7:30 … ,” to accompany him to an annual get-together of local students and alumni from Ivy League colleges. The only thing that kept him away from that was if he was feeling unwell, because he so enjoyed meeting and talking with the group members – especially the younger students and recent graduates.
But most of all, I will miss our weekly conversations in which he shared his thoughts, asked my opinion on different things, or just checked in to see how I was and how my children were doing. Our conversations rarely ended without him also updating me on things happening with him or with his children and grandchildren, of whom he was so very proud.
In my rational mind, I know my uncle had a long and fulfilling life, but in my heart, I would have liked him to stay with us longer. It is so strange not to hear his voice on the end of the phone line: “Rebecca, I have something I want to discuss ... .” I believe he still had much he wanted to contribute. For now, I am trying to take comfort in the fact that he is at rest. Be at peace, Uncle Eddie. You made us all so proud. You are, and will always be, greatly loved.