Children Made My Mom, Mom

A regular scene with Grandma Bishop found her engaging in a creative activity with her kids and grandkids -- here, she shows how to use cookie cutters to make baloney sandwiches taste even better!

A regular scene with Mom found her engaging in a creative activity with her kids and grandkids.  Here, she shows two Bishop grandkids — my sons — how to use cookie cutters to make baloney sandwiches taste even better!

By Jeffrey Bishop

Children are what made my mom, Mom.  Mom to me, and mom to so many others – and not just my four brothers and one sister – a large family even by Catholic standards.  Because even before I came along and long after, Mom raised up children.

Mom was a teacher.  And seeing how she taught and raised children her entire life, I think she was a fine teacher.  Although I could be a little biased.

Her earliest brood was special needs children at the Institute of Logopedics in Wichita, Kansas.  It’s there where she met my Dad and started her family.  By the time I came along, she was managing a Montessori preschool and day care.  When it closed – because we needed the income, and because she is a Mom and a teacher – she brought the preschool and day care to our home, where she continued to operate it, if for a smaller brood of kids.

Even after she closed the home-based preschool, she continued to teach and to raise many kids.  Some of our friends came to live with us for a time, for a variety of reasons, and they were Mom’s kids all the same.

Mom continued to advocate for kids, fighting for strong schools and a strong school board for all of Wichita’s kids in the early 1990s.  And of course, the sunset of her career again brought her to a role where she could continue to nurture the development of thousands of children, as a speech pathologist and literacy coordinator with the Wichita-area Head Start program.

And no sooner had she started foisting her own children into the world, did grandchildren come along.  And she was there as Grand Mom, to help raise up another generation of children.

Mom was a gifted, loving, natural mother and teacher.  She was creative and resourceful; I remember being very young and being kept occupied in the kitchen with an industrial-sized aluminum baking pan and a handful of unpopped popcorn, and being instructed to make pictures out of the food-beads; it was her creative, loving means to keep me busy and engaged while she baked bread nearby.

At the Montessori, at nap time, we’d each pull out an olive drab Army cot – Lord knows where she got them – for a mid-afternoon snooze.  How lucky we were to have those cots, as we’d realize a few years later at kindergarten, when naps took place on the floor on a towel or on a rope rug.

To brighten a mood or to teach a concept, she’d make up a game or sing a song.  Sometimes it worked.  But not when I had to learn my times tables or how to read a clock.  But the faults in those situations were mine, not hers.

The lessons she taught stuck.  Last night, I told my two sons – teenaged boys – that their Grandma Bishop had passed away that morning.  I let them know that any way that they might respond to the news over the coming days would be perfectly OK and natural:  they might laugh, they might not have any response at all, or they might even cry.  And it would be OK, regardless.

Then I remembered where I’d learned that it was OK for little boys to cry; from a song that my Mom had shared with all of her children at the preschool.  Some of you might know it:

If you’re crying now, it’s alright.  Sometimes big boys cry too.

As I told my boys, we cry when we lose someone because we miss them.  I can also cry in joy, because I know my mom is somewhere safe, and is comforted and eternally loved – without the pain that marked her last days here.  And I know that soon enough – but hopefully not too soon – we’ll join her.  And together with all her other children, we’ll sing another of her favorite songs, which she taught to her grandchildren:

May God bless you in Heaven, Mom.  We love you and miss you!

Dorothy Mae Bishop
Dec. 20, 1943 – Jul. 17, 2013


Copyright 2013

~ by Random Handyman on July 18, 2013.

4 Responses to “Children Made My Mom, Mom”

  1. Jeffrey:
    You may not remember me, but I taught kindergarten at Emerson for 25 years. I job- shared with Susan for one year, then took over. My kids, Tim and Susie Holtzclaw went there as well. I had planned to attend the memorial service for your mom, but had to stay home to care for a little guy whose mom was very sick and needed me to keep him for a week. I was sad to miss hearing your remarks, and seeing Aidan and Fallon (who were in my kindergarten) and the rest of your family. But I think Dottie would have approved of my putting kids first! When JP sent me the link to your blog I was thrilled to see the reference to Rosey Greer and that song all you kids grew up with. A couple of months ago I put a post on facebook about Rosey and that song, and an experience we had in 1980. I’ll quote it here:

    “Now that he has married a Wichita kindergarten teacher, it’s time the share my Rosey Grier story. In 1980 I took the two kids (Susie was three, Timmy, three months) on a plane to California, to visit my grandmother. Timmy was crying loudly, probably due to ear pain. We were sitting in the bulkhead seat, just behind first class. Rosey Grier left his seat, and came to see if he could help with the baby. When Susie saw him, she said “Mama, that’s the man who sings ‘It’s All Right to Cry.’ She’d heard him on the “Free to Be You and Me” album, and seen him on Sesame Street. Rosey asked Susie if she’d like to hear it, and he sang her the song, right there on the airplane! What a great guy!”

    Please know that you, your dad, and brothers and sister have my condolences and those of all the other Emerson folks who knew your mother. She was the best kind of example to and inspiration for all of us who believed that a caring heart and hard work could make a difference for children.

    • Stella, thank you for your kind words and for a great story … I had (consciously) forgotten about that song until a few months ago; I think that the memory of it was a way of preparing me for this. The connection of Rosey Grier to Wichita in your linked news story is ironic timing as well! I’m sorry we missed seeing you, but thank you for your caring thoughts for all of us as we grieve my mom’s passing.

  2. This is wonderful. Your delivery at the service was heartfelt and moving. I sent the link to this to Stella, too. Great to see you today, I’m so sorry about the circumstances.

    • Thank you for attending, JP — it was great to see you, Geraldine and so many other Emerson faces at the service; it was also good to reconnect with you and share a few memories!

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