Uncle Bickerson loves Civil War history so for his birthday we gave him this book.
Full text is "The Diary of a Dead Man, 1862-1864: The Unedited Diary and Letters of Ira Pettit, a Union Private, Who Fought on the Battlefields of Chancellorsville, ... Died in the Squalor of Andersonville Prison" -- and pay attention to the last part "Compiled by J.P. Ray".
Mother Magoo sent it to him along with tote bag for Aunt Bickerson. We call them the magnificent Bickersons because my uncle is stubborn and my aunt is partially deaf and they only ever communicate by bickering at top volume.
I called shortly after receipt of said box, had a genially shouted conversation with Aunt Bickerson, then a disconcerting conversation with Uncle Bickerson.
Me: "I hope you like the book, it should have all sorts of interesting stuff about the Civil War."
Uncle Bickerson: "What are you talking about?"
Me: "The book. Your present."
Uncle Bickerson: "I don't know what to do with this book."
Me: "What? I thought you were interested in the Civil War." (thinking to myself: Have I gotten it wrong? Oh God, I'm an idiot. Who forgets which war a history buff likes?!)
Uncle Bickerson: "Civil War? This book is about the man who shot Martin Luther King, Jr."
Me (frantically googling the book's title): "What?! No, no! It's letters from a man who was in the Civil War....written to his family."
Uncle Bickerson: "But the cover says Jame Earl Ray....wait...oh, 1880."
Me: "Yes! 1880! I would never send you a book about a lone gunmen!"
Uncle Bickerson: "Thank God, that makes much more sense. I just couldn't figure out why you would send this to me. What you were trying say..."
Me: "Oh God, no. I would never..."
Keep in mind, if I hadn't brought it up, he never would have mentioned it. He just accepted it as a birthday present of judgement and said nothing. We may not agree on a lot things culturally or politically (he's a curmudgeonly, Irish Catholic ex-country cop), but it broke my heart that he would keep quiet. I heaped love on his head until we hung up. Next time, explanatory notes will be included in all presents!
R.I.P. Spain Rodiguez, artist and revolutionary. You were a true original, a fascinating man and a good friend to my mom. Thanks for all the stories. SF Chron has a nice write-up.
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