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Ramblings Concerning Three Sons
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My two youngest sons, ages 26 and about 30, took off this morning on a camping trip to Point Reyes and I hope they don't murder each other. They are so far apart in nature, argue constantly, and sometimes almost come to blows. I've heard this is normal for brothers. But why are they both so volatile? The least thing sets them off. Why can't they stay calm and equitable like their father, talk things out? Sounds like Professor Higgins.

Last time they took a trip like this, they took another young man with them so at least there was a third party along to referee the fights. I know there were squabbles on that trip. One brother swears the other tried to push him over a cliff. This time there are just the two of them and nobody to intervene.

My last words to Evan - "Don't try to kill each other. I'm not driving all the way to Pt. Reyes to post bail even if my Bug will make it that far."

One possible provocation is that Dustin has chosen to make this a walk-in, carry-all-your-gear trip to a campground on a ridge overlooking the sea.

He bought lots of freeze-dried food to save on the weight in their backpacks. Before they left, Evan was already complaining he needs real food, meat and potatoes and stuff, and is willing to carry the extra weight on his back rather than risk starvation far from a fast food stop.

I see a lot of myself in Dustin. We are both workaholics, worry all the time, get stressed out easily, but have the same sense of humor and laugh at the same jokes.

Evan is a mystery. On the surface he appears self confident, laid back, impulsive, with little concern for the future. But what lies beneath? Sometimes I find myself trying to trace some personal characteristic, even an annoying habit, common to Evan and me.

This morning, the day of their departure, I found one. We both yawn loud and long on waking. Evan has this habit of stretching luxuriously and making uninhibited, very vocal yawns, audible throughout the house. This morning I caught myself doing it. Now I don't know whether he started imitating me long ago or I finally picked it up from him.

Both the boys lived with me until a few years ago when Dustin moved out first to live with friends and then in his own apartment near his work in Modesto. That left Evan and me and a gulf in communication.

He knows I love him dearly. Hugs are all important to us. But our vocal communication is pathetic. Maybe it's just the age spread, the years between. Was I this way with my father, a kind but distant and authoritative figure? How can humans whose interests are so different converse?

"So what's up? Nothing much. What did you do today? Hung around! Where are you going now? Just across town. Will you be back for dinner? Maybe!" So much for a typical day's sparkling conversation.

I have a third son Peter (no daughters) who is 40-plus and lives in Oregon so my communication with him is by telephone (and occasionally e-mail). He is well read, highly articulate, into politics and "agin the government." He will talk for hours about the state of the world while revealing virtually nothing about his personal life.

Though I did worm out of him recently he has a girlfriend. That delights me. She will do him good. Women have a more practical approach to life than men. She will make him face reality.

Asked many years ago what I wanted to call my column, I chose "Ramblings" because that's the nature of my brain; my mind wanders most of the time. Since I find it difficult to concentrate on any one subject for more than a few minutes, I planned to compose a column of reasonable length by stringing together short observations on unrelated subjects.

That was the original intent of this column, too. But it assumed a life of its own, took off on a tangent, stuck to one subject and became more personal than I intended.

So now I'll just ramble on to the next thing on my list ...

John Branch is editor of The Riverbank News and a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at or 847-3021.