Thomas E. Schmuki Photography

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The moment you find out your child is schizophrenic

Tom Schmuki3 Comments

This blog entry will be very personal and only the strong should read. Your opinion of me will probably change in a negative way as you understand my words.

I think my BLOG is more like a personal journal that very few people read or care about. It allows me to put in words my thoughts and feelings, and I have hopes that others may benefit or enjoy reading it. I have a wife and 4 living children and I am confident not one of them has read one of my blogs even though I have recommended it.

This entry may be more of an introspective on “who am I” or maybe more importantly “why am I”.

My son Eric was born March 9th, 1984 in Denver Colorado. His mother was my previous wife Marilynn. I remember the day he was born like it was yesterday. I saw the most beautiful child on earth. My heart and soul was full of love and happiness. He was beautiful and perfect in every way. I felt so blessed.

We moved from Denver to Miami Lakes Florida when he was still in diapers approximately 33 years ago. I moved to Florida primarily because of two things, year round golf and a wonderful job opportunity in a start up Stock Broker Dealer called Investacorp. I became nearly a founder of the company and a major contributor to the real success of that company growing it to one of the largest privately owned broker dealers in the country.

Aside from work, golf was my passion. I took Eric out with me as soon as he could swing a plastic club. He was a natural from day one. I taught Eric about the game I loved so much. By the time he was a junior in High School he was nearly a scratch golfer. That means he shot around 72 every time he played. I was his only teacher. We played and practiced together nearly every day. Eric had aspirations of becoming a professional golfer, and I could not be more proud.

Eric was approximately 14 or 15 years old when his mother and I divorced and he then lived with his mom in Orlando during his school time and with me every other weekend and during the summer.

By the time Eric began his junior year in High School things seem to start to change with him. His dedication to golf, school and life seem to be diminished each passing day. I had hoped it was just a phase he was going through. Eric played on the high school golf team but fell off a golf cart and broke his arm and was unable to compete with his school.

Eric was able to get good grades in school because he was a smart kid. However, I never saw him crack open a book and study it for his school work. School and golf became less and less important to him. He started “hanging” with the wrong crowd.

Golf, school and college no longer were important to him. Somehow he decided to go to the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando. His mother Marilynn supported his decision to live off campus his freshman year which I totally disagreed with. I am pretty sure the kids he was hanging with in college at his off campus apartment were “bad” kids. Drugs, alcohol, etc, were acceptable. We found out deep into his first semester that he was failing all his classes and was not even going to any of his classes.

Eric was becoming Non-Eric month by month, day by day. We had noticed a dramatic change in his personality. Very long story short, we received a phone call from a policeman in Orlando stating that he had Eric was in jail and he was stating that he was driving crazy, was drunk or drugged, and was going to take his own life. After a few visits to the psychiatrists and psychologists he was diagnosed “Paranoid Schizophrenic.” That was the day my life changed for ever. I will never forget it. I kept remembering the day he was born, so perfect, so beautiful. I remembered all the fantastic days of golf we had and his aspirations to become a professional golfer. This had all dramatically changed. I soon realized the diagnosis of most 19 year old boys with schizophrenia meant he would not live until he was 30 years old. I guess I at that moment knew it to be true. He lived until he was 28 and died in his sleep in his mothers home in Orlando just over 6 years ago. My heart and soul changed forever. My ability to love and be loved was now a thing of the past, never to be changed in the future. I became hopeless and frankly to this day feel that way.

Just to give you context of how our conversations went between 19 and 28. “Dad, I know mother installed a camera in my tooth and the whole world is watching everything I do. Just tell me it is true and I will finally trust you and believe you.” He described an entirely different world, very similar to the movie starring Richard Crowe A Beautiful Mind. It is like Eric lived in a 3rd dimension. I had to see this, observe this and father this for nearly a decade before he passed.

After all the good I had done in the world including serving a mission for the Mormon church, I had now realized there was either NO GOD, or HE had nothing but pain and anguish in mind for me.

I still want to do good. I still want to make people happy. I still want to create a legacy. My artistic photography is my conduit for that. I wish I could say I do photography for myself, but I would be lying. I do it for others. I hope to make them happy. I want to give them something that no other photographer can or will. I want it to have a lasting value for them and their family. I want someone else to be happy. I want to create a legacy of at least one thing I did right in my life. Something that lasts beyond my existence on earth.

I understand it is way too important for me to feel appreciated for my work. I cannot tell you how many times I have said to my photography clients …. “I hope you like it…” They have no clue as to the context of where I am really coming from.

Now you know what is in my heart and soul nearly every waking moment. I am not proud of it, but it is what it is.

I had lost my golf partner and I have not played since.


Eric at Marinos.jpg