Cheryl Lynn Schlueter – Mohr – Kloss, AKA “Fishbone”

Cheryl Lynn Schlueter – Mohr – Kloss, AKA “Fishbone”, October 27th, 1954 – October 8th, 2022. On Saturday morning, light departed the beautiful blue eyes of the best friend I’ve ever known. It was right before Indigenous Peoples Day. She always visited Wounded Knee, whenever we would go out west, to mourn, to share, and to learn about the old ways. And, Crazy Horse, of course. And Pine Ridge. We first knew her as Cheri Schlueter. Briefly as Cheryl Mohr. Cheryl Kloss for quite a while. And, to those of us in her family of friends, “Fishbone”. To Todd, and Becki, and Molly, and Lindsay, she was momma. I think we have to add Beth, and Sherri, and probably a few more to that list. To Courtney, and Kassidy, and Kyle, and Hailey, and Chelsey, and Braden, and Jacob, and Satan, excuse me, Damien, and Jayda, and Ivy, and Maddelyn, and Benjamin, and Theon, she is gramma. Some of them ain’t sayin’ the word yet, but they got the idea. She was Ray Schlueter and Phyllis Sabatke’s kid. Gary and Randy’s little sister.  She was the apple of her daddy’s eye, and he was the air beneath her wings. Now there’s a love story to be told! He had to leave her, before they were ready, and it took a piece of her. Same with her brother, Gary. And, her daughter Becki. Becki, and Todd, the first two lights she brought into the world. Todd when she was sixteen. Becki, at seventeen. To say that she was pilloried, for the gross error of having children without proper authorization, is an understatement of epic proportions. Do we celebrate the arrival of a child, or don’t we? She did. She does. She always has. Especially all of her unauthorized grandchildren. She was a total momma bear when it came to caring for those cubs of hers. When papa bear made tracks, Fishbone worked her fingers to the bone, foraging for those youngsters, working days, and nights, making sure those kids were well taken care of. That’s what a momma bear does. Not, shoot wolves from helicopters, and tell everyone how tough you are. Hear that Ms. Palin? I met her on the factory floor, at Merrill Manufacturing. I couldn’t see the beautiful blue eyes so well, through the safety glasses, but she has a presence, way more attractive than appearance. Her first words to me were, “What’s Pink Floyd”? That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. On Labor Day, 1978, she asked me the question that changed/saved my life. She pulled up in her little Cobra Mustang. Her, soon to be ex sister in law, Niecee, was with her. Niecee and I were already friends. So, Fishbone says, “Will you take me for a ride on that motorcycle sometime”? We decided to make a plan that week, at work, and the next weekend, our lifelong ride, together, began. Four years later, we had our own unauthorized arrival. We named her Molly. A year later was Lindsay, the only non-out-of-wedlock kiddo in the bunch. It hasn’t seemed to make much difference to anyone. It didn’t to my mom and dad, who got the daughter, in Cheri that they never had. We had incredible experiences together, whether it was the Grand Tetons, or the Rockies, or the Sawtooth, or the Highway to the Sun, or feeling the hot breath of a thousand bison on your back, in Yellowstone, inches away, everywhere. And the wolves, the bighorn sheep, the elk, and the Grizz !!! And, all the times, sleddin’ in a foot of white powder, in the Harrison Hills. And, Rush, Tom Petty, Joe Walsh, Roger Waters (almost Pink Floyd), and on and on.

In spite of all of our great adventures, her joy, our joy, was partying with our kids, and grandkids,  Sheryl Crow had Fishbone figured out a long time ago. EASY. Then there’s Fishbone, the hero. This 60+ great grandma, came across an enormous coworker choking, yet somehow managed to get her carpel tunnel hands wrapped around that man’s hugh barrel chest, perform the Heimlich maneuver, and saved a life. Then there’s the time she married a hardcore alcoholic, because she saw the good in him, and thought she could fix him. Damn, she’s two for two. Thanks baby. And, who could forget the time they arrested her, and threw her in jail for conspiracy to commit first degree murder. You liars/lawyers/legal losers sure humiliated yourselves with that stupid stunt. Time to say you’re sorry. I’ll start us off. Cheri/Fishbone, I’m so sorry if anything that I did prompted those morons to put you in jail, and try to ruin you. Please forgive us. It’s good to still be alive, but I sure miss you. It’s really lonely, and sad here, without you. I wanted, so, to be your white knight. We’re gonna have a birthday party for you at the bowling alley. I hope that you can make it. I got you five cards, and one present, so far.

This thing really isn’t really reading like any obituary I ever read. Screwed up again! Maybe I’ll call it, a “love letter to my wife.” It took me a while to bring myself to write this. Now, I don’t want to stop. Finishing feels like an end to something that I’m not ready to stop. I’m not ready to end this part of my life. I’ve got Paul, and Heidi, and Javi, and Ariel, and the folks from the am support group, so there’s help for me. But, you and I’ve got stuff to do yet. So, my solution is:

“We Can Sing Songs of Bears Upon the Death of a Wife”

for Wisconsin friends, Kelly & Fishbone (RIP) by Paul Haeder / October 17th, 2022

If nothing saves us from death, at least love should save us from life. — Neruda

 they are séancing to the sap

trees turning inside, holding, fixing
life in the fallow, the fall retreat
into the Winter of contentment
hibernation is another way toward
second birth, as Kelly and Fishbone
seek memories through toughed
old man, solo now, he holds her voice
until winds of spring pull him
toward lamentation, a rising
heat of summer, life, dandelions
cooked for healing, dragonflies
barely on the horizon
when was the last firefly
Kelly and Fishbone shared
bears and scat, maybe a lobo
deep in Wisconsin territory?

he’s not alone, though she
has moved interstellar like
a poof of air, spirit so light
yet our universe is created by elemental
mixtures of carbon and love
oh how they shared life, even while
her dusk was tethered to chemo
contentment in small things
as her pick-up truck was repaired
a chance to see the country beyond Wisconsin:
Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Ho-Chunk Nation, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin, Oneida Nation, Forest County Potawatomi, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior, Brothertown Nation

I met them through ether gestures, old saws
my rants against systems but also rants for humanity
a humane and just world, so Kelly latched on a
and we have become one, in that pairing
crazy 21st Century rendezvous, digital age
alas, not a fan, but a friend, and this is so
as word comes her fight ended
in the gravity sea of Earth
a couple is never a singular equation
once man and woman bond
break lamentation into vows
through that health and happiness.
through the hardscrabble of life
through sickness and death
I see them both in birch bark
lines black and white, the curl
just right, so many imagined
shapes in the bark peeling
falling, weathering seasons
until a poem arises for friends

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