Joan Osbourne – One of Us (1995) (Video) (Lyrics)
There are one hit wonders, and then there are one hit wonders that reside on Grammy nominated albums. While I’ve never been a fan of award shows, even the Grammys, I did pay some attention to the Grammy albums that came out each February as a teen – just in case there was something I’d missed the year before.
I don’t remember when I first heard One of Us, but I immediately fell in love with the song. It was the perfect song to belt by yourself in your car when you think no one is watching. Half the fun of getting your driver’s license as a teen is the anticipation. I couldn’t wait to be the one behind the wheel, belting whatever I pleased.
Growing up, the only thing better than waiting to get my license was waiting for my older cousin Abby to get hers. We are only ten months apart in age and grew up together. We shared a first Christmas at Grandma Buttrick’s house in 1980 – and every one thereafter until Grandma passed away in 2014. Now, at Christmas, we bring the party to Abby, even in the middle of blizzards. We did elementary school, junior high and high school, and even college together. We, along with her older sister Emily, studied supply chain management at Michigan State. Freshman year, she was my ride home. Safe to say, my childhood would have been much different without Abby J. She was very much the older sister I never had.
In February 1996, the Grammys were over, we were celebrating all of the February birthdays at Aunt Robin’s house, and Abby was just about to turn 16. Her first car was similar to mine. I ended up with my beloved ‘89 red Grand Prix and hers was a white ‘88. Both of those cars ended up saving our lives.
I don’t remember specifically what Abby received for her birthday, aside from the car, but we ended up listening to One of Us on the CD player she had had installed in her car. There is nothing to compare to giggling in the back seat of a car with your older cousin and younger sister singing along to a great song at top volume. This image of the three of us singing One of Us with as much emotion as we could muster continues to haunt me. In a few months, everything would change.
The day started out normal enough. A typical beautiful early June day not long after school ended for the year, it was to be my first day of driver’s ed. I had just enough time to down a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats before Mom was to return from the gym and drop me off at the high school.
I met Mom in the kitchen after I heard the door to the garage open. I knew immediately something awful had happened. Mom couldn’t stop crying, and generally, Mom wasn’t a crier. On the way home from the gym, she had heard that Abby had been involved in a tragic car accident. I don’t know for sure, but I have the idea that she heard it on the radio on her way home. However it was reported on the radio, it made it sound as though Abby was at fault. That certainly wasn’t the case. In reality, Abby was hit head on by a drunk driver. Another car had been immediately in front of Abby and swerved out of the way of the drunk driver, leaving Abby with no time to react. Tragically, the other driver died.
Abby was OK but certainly not unscathed. Once she was home from the hospital, I remember visiting her with my mom, sister, and brother. My younger brother Garrett, 5 at the time, made her laugh so hard that he had to stop. It made her stitches hurt. He still has that effect on people.
My intention here isn’t to tell Abby’s story as I could never do it justice and it isn’t mine to tell. Instead, it is to finally admit just how deeply Abby’s accident affected me. Keep in mind that her accident happened on my first day of driver’s ed. Shortly after learning the true story of the accident and that Abby would be OK, I was sitting in a classroom listening to the driver’s ed instructor talk about her accident. I wouldn’t feel comfortable behind the wheel for years. It would take two road trips well into college – one to Minnesota and one to Texas – to make that happen.
In the end, Abby and I joined SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) the following school year. She went on to suffer braces all over again and became class president her senior year. Eventually, we both ended up at Michigan State. It is thanks to Abby, who still didn’t feel completely comfortable driving the expressway, I learned the back roads home from State.
Everyone always seemed to chalk up my issues behind the wheel – fear, basically – to Turner Syndrome (TS). Most women with TS do not get their license on time due to depth perception/spatial issues. Fortunately, I’ve learned how to deal with those. No, it was my fear and anxiety after Abby’s accident. One of Us will always take me back to a much simpler time.