Underneath she can hear me. After every performance, I went backstage, downed a beer and shut off my feelings. It was easier that way. Music was and is my way to cope with pain. I could sing my anger and pain out. I’ve tried everything to get in touch with her, from writing, therapy to going under meditation and hypnosis to find her again. I’ve written about her a lot, my mother. My first memory of her is sitting at the kitchen table. She’d given me a paper plate with a few vanilla cream-filled cookies on it. They were my favorite. She smiled at me and turned back toward the oven where she was making chicken for dinner. I must have been seven or so. My mother loved me and I felt that even at that young age. She was there for me through my childhood into my pre-teen years. When kids in Junior high school made fun of me for the birthmark on my face, I ran home crying and she was there. She never put her problems in front of mine, even though she had a lot of them. What I didn’t realize until later is while she was making dinner, which often was chicken and rice, she faintly smelled of booze. I was too young to understand it at the time. But when I came home that day crying, after the kids called me ugly, I smelled that same faint smell on her breath as she hugged me. She told me it helped her stay calm. I didn’t understand, but I said: “okay, mom.”

She got a lot worse when I started high school. I would come home from school and she’d be passed out drunk on the couch. I left her alone. When my dad came home from work around 5:30 pm, I’d yell at him. I asked him why he wouldn’t do anything. Why wouldn’t he help her? He just shook his head and said she was fine, and that I was “overreacting.” I ran into my room after hearing this for the 100th time and punched a hole in the wall. He came running into my room, saw my hand bleeding and screamed: “what the hell is wrong with you?!” We just stared at each other. Finally, he told me to finished my homework and went downstairs to wake mom up to make dinner.

I’ve talked about my mother a lot in my songs. When I play live shows, it’s obvious which songs are about her. When she died I wasn’t ready for it. But, who is? I was 17, and it happened suddenly. It started with drinking and then escalated to pills. Anything she could get her hands on. My dad was the one who found her. I was out on a date with my girlfriend. He called me barely able to speak. He told me she wasn’t breathing. I yelled into the phone “what do you mean?! What the hell are you talking about?!” He couldn’t answer, he just kept crying. My girlfriend and I drove home and find her. Dad was holding her in his arms crying. We called the ambulance together. She was pronounced dead when they arrived.

I lost my mother before she had a chance to see me on stage. She would have been proud of the performer I’ve become. She always encouraged me to keep singing. I knew she was sick, that she was self-medicating with addiction from her own pain, her childhood abuse. But she never talked about it. When I sing out to the crowd, I imagine she’s out there listening. I sing to her, hoping that wherever she is, she can hear me. I love you, mom. Always.