Wake-up Call

The day before Mother’s Day, I’m dreaming the usual stuff, probably trying to set a table for twenty with five water glasses, or squeezing underneath a car in the parking garage, or maybe stepping from a floating dock to a boat bound for Belize, when two big thuds that don’t fit into the dream bring me to the surface. “That’s a wreck,” I mumble. Bob rolls over and says, “Guess I should go see.”

Outside he finds a shiny blue sedan parked on Fred and Reda’s giant prickly pear cactus. A young man paces their yard, cell phone pressed to his ear. “I fell asleep,” he tells Bob. The car is totaled and his family is on the way. With surprising composure, he says he nodded off on his way to work because he was up too late. “I needed a wake-up call,” he says. Bob considers the irony in his statement but decides not to point it out.

I ring the house next door, waking Reda.
“There’s a car in your front yard.”
“What?”
“There’s a car in your front yard.”
“I’ll tell Fred.”

Bob comes in for coffee, and when I see Fred through the window, I wander out with my cocoa. Fred is chit chatting with the driver’s aunt and uncle in our driveway. “Morning Fred,” I say, and turning to our guests, “Neighbors used to get together for weddings and birthdays, but nowadays we mainly see each other at car wrecks.” We smile.

Statistics back up my little joke. Earlier this month NPR’s 1A explored the trend towards isolation with The Universal Solitude of Americans: Loneliness on the Rise.

More than half of survey respondents – fifty-four percent – said they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well. Fifty-six percent reported they sometimes or always felt like the people around them “are not necessarily with them.” And two in five felt like “they lack companionship,” that their “relationships aren’t meaningful,” and that they “are isolated from others.”

And what’s more, younger generations feel lonelier.

Members of Generation Z, born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s, had an overall loneliness score of 48.3. Millennials, just a little bit older, scored 45.3. By comparison, baby boomers scored 42.4. The Greatest Generation, people ages 72 and above, had a score of 38.6 on the loneliness scale.

Fred and I indulge in the litany of Moncure Pittsboro Road Wrecks. He tells us about the car that crossed their yard and nearly crashed into their bedroom. I recall the day my friend got rear ended trying to turn into our driveway, and left in an ambulance. The aunt chimes in with her own horror story. Just months after their wedding, her husband ended up in ICU sharing a room with a passenger from the other car, and the driver downstairs in the morgue.

We replay this morning’s mishap by reading the scars across our ditch and driveway, one reflector gone, the other standing untouched. “He was airborne over here.” Fred says, looking from the ditch to the split branches of our juniper where the car touched down before coming to a stop on his cactus. “I’m glad he took out that cactus. It was sitting on a big fire ant pile.”

We are amazed that this young man is alive. “A perfect Mother’s Day gift,” says the woman, thinking of her sister. We embrace and hold on. “This is our wake up call to savor every moment.” The sun is coming on strong now. I walk up the driveway with an empty mug and a full heart.

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