Friday, March 29, 2024

Life is hard....and amazing

 Life is hard….and amazing.

It has been a long time since I have sat down to write this blog, for obvious reasons.

This Easter Sunday will be 8 months since Laura passed.

After she left this world, I just did not have anything to say or much reason to do so.

I knew I had to make the album we planned before her death and I knew I needed to 

try and be useful for my family, but I didn’t have much else in me, I was numb.

I was tired. I had just spent a year and a half grieving while watching my best friend die in front of me. It was exhausting. Next month will be two years since Laura began getting sick. It was a nightmare that seemed would never end. Once it did, it was just quiet and weird. 

But sometime in August I began to get the desire to pick myself up and brush myself off.

I began doing shows again and playing my guitar. That was a big deal. It felt good to play loud.

It was weird at first to get out in front of people again, but I started just making myself do it.

I would walk into the crowds and let people get close to me again. Most people greeted me with hugs and love. Some had no idea what to say. Many cried without words. I would spend my time consoling them more than anyone consoled me. It was very therapeutic. I would tell them thank you and “it’s gonna be ok” and they would ask me “you’re not crying?” Or they would give me this concerned look and I would sweetly answer “I have cried for over a year, it’s your turn to cry now.”  I could not cry anymore. I did not want to isolate and get stuck in depression, I wanted to walk into life again and move forward for myself and my family. We lived in a shadow for a very long time, it was time to walk out of the shadow.

Sometime around the end of August a dear friend and business partner of mine gave me a call.

We had been working on the concept of a music non-profit before Laura got sick but then it got sidetracked. He called one day and said “Buddy, it’s time to get back on the horse. We need to get working on the non-profit. Have you ever considered moving back to the St. Louis area?”. The last we had spoken about the non profit it was possibly being built in Florida, even Texas but the land was expensive in both states. He had just heard of a new PGA golf course being built outside of St. Louis and that the land and taxes were much cheaper. That conversation threw a spark in me. I had not really ever considered moving back to St. Louis but now I was intrigued. We began talking about possibilities and looking at properties for fun.

This definitely got my mind thinking about the future. Laura’s mother and sister were both from the St. Louis area. This might be a very interesting idea.

Around this same time last year I began talking to a woman I had gone to high school with but really never knew. Her name is Jackie. She sent some very sweet messages when Laura was in hospice and encouraged me to continue to write stories about Laura. I remember reading her stories of her daughter who is special needs. She too had blogged about the experiences they were going through. She could relate in a sense to what I was trying to do with writing those stories. I was trying to reach out, find empathy, share my love for Laura with the world, and cope. I went back and read some of her blogs about her daughter. In August we sent a few messages back and forth learning about our kids and families. We really didn’t know anything about one another. We built a friendship. It was really nice to have someone to say hello to or ask how their day was going. She was funny and made me laugh when I needed it most.

Slowly, over the next few months we talked more and more and realized how much we had in common. I finally got up the nerve to ask her out on a date at the beginning of November. 

I was finally beginning to feel alive again for the first time in a very long time. 

I celebrated 20 years of sobriety on October 28th. Jackie gave me a nice card and a coffee mug that said “Woke up sober again”. I knew right then that this is something special.

I never really considered another relationship after Laura. Laura would often tell me “You’re going to move on Mike, I don’t want you to be alone. There will be someone for you.”

I just couldn’t see that at the time. But God had another plan. Somehow, someway Jackie and I have been brought together in this world. It’s been amazing to say the least. My children have fallen in love with her. She is sweet and kind and so caring. She wants to know about Laura and hear our stories. We brought all 9 of our kids together at the first of the year and had a magical weekend together that ended with an amazing snow storm that had everyone in the front yard building snowmen and throwing snowballs. We have been on many dates now and trips and life has taken a turn that is amazing. Jackie is exactly what we all needed. We are truly blessed to have her in our lives today. 

In September I went to Sunset Studios in Hollywood with Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith and their band of exceptional musicians and recorded the album “Life is Hard”. A tribute to the loss of Laura and to living through some tough shit but persevering. I believe this to be the BEST album of my career. I put everything I had into each note I sang and played. Joe and Josh and the band put their hearts into this with me and I believe we made a gem. Laura would be so proud.

Our non profit has moved on full force and we have put a contract down on property just out of St. Louis to build a professional recording studio for young artists to have a chance to get their music out there. I will be the Executive Director of the non profit. For a guy who barely graduated from High School, that’s pretty incredible! Being the ED will give me the financial opportunity to step back a bit from touring and stay closer to home for my family. 

YES, I will NOT stop touring, EVER! Just maybe not 4 weeks at a time please… I am old!

So, I will be moving to St. Louis this summer with Josie to begin our new adventure. 

I will start my new position in June and you will hear a LOT more about it very soon, it’s the most exciting musical adventure yet. Josie will start her freshman year at a great new school.

She’s already taking trips to meet friends and she is SO excited for all of this. This move will be a huge step in the right direction for Josie.

We will keep our house in Nederland and Sophie will stay and finish her Senior year at NHS. It wouldn’t be fair to make her move her last year and she is excited as well. She’s going to be 18 this year and has her eye on a great University and is beginning to visit colleges this year. Of course I will be going back and forth regularly and Laura’s mother will continue assisting when I am not there. Matt Johnson and his lovely family are moving to St. Louis this summer as well. Matt will play a big role in the recording studio. The non profit will help family members and band members alike. OF COURSE, I will miss SE Texas and will ALWAYS come back to see my friends and family. Southeast Texas saved my life. It changed me forever. It will always be my second home. I will continually come back and play shows and eat food at the Bayou Cafe and Madison’s!!!  BUT, I am not gone just yet. I promise more Texas shows this year for sure.

I am also VERY excited to move back to St. Louis after all of these years.

St. Louis is my home. This is where I was born and raised and learned to be a musician.

I left the city on a very low note over 20 years ago. I have never been able to truly enjoy my city as a sober, productive member of society. I am thrilled to come back to the music scene in a big way. I hope that the non profit will bring many of my old friends back together again. I look forward to being involved in more shows and events.

Gulf Coast records will certainly continue on full steam ahead. Our record label is kicking ass!

I just wouldn’t have thought life would be so amazing. I did not expect it. 

Jackie is a dream come true. I have found a best friend and partner that shares the same values and love for life and family. We are excited to see what the future brings for all of us.

I know for a fact that all of this positive energy is from Laura. She has done all of this for our family. The Universe is unfolding in ways never expected. I continue to follow the positive energy and I thank God and Laura everyday for these blessings. 

Peace, Love, Zito.