A year ago, I wrote a two-part series titled "My Mom's Advice for America." Those columns became two of my most read pieces. With both my mother's 93rd birthday (May 4) and Mother's Day (May 11) on the horizon, I decided to write a two-part series this year on her mother's advice for America.
Grandmother Scarberry, whom I affectionately always called "Granny" until the day she died, was an inspirational matriarch in the family, especially in my life. Outside of God and my wife, Gena, my mom and Granny were the two bedrocks and influences in my life. There are no greater or more passionate culture warriors that I know of than these three ladies. Their advice for America is the stuff our republic was founded upon and needs today.
I can think of nothing better during this time when we honor motherhood than to echo Granny's advice, which she lived by example -- not just preaching -- and my mother, Wilma Norris Knight, recorded in her autobiography, "Acts of Kindness: My Story."
I was rereading her life story and gleaning the wisdom that was so prevalent in my upbringing in rural Wilson, Oklahoma, particularly how my mom and Granny survived and thrived through the Great Depression. As part of the builder generation and greatest generation, respectively, Granny and Mom were tough as nails (even at their roughly 5-foot statures).
Here is the type of legacy and grit my mom inherited from Granny (from the preface of my mom's autobiography):
"I am ninety-one years old and the only surviving member of a family of eleven.
"I was raised in poverty in rural Oklahoma. We even lost our home once to a tornado.
"I was supposed to die from a rare illness at eight years of age, which landed me in a hospital in which I lived for two years, hours away from my family.
"At sixteen, I married a man who struggled being a husband and eventually abandoned me to raise our three boys alone. At the same age, I also nearly lost all my sight, and did lose my father (through his sudden passing to heaven).
"I've been present to help at the deaths of my father, mother, and all my siblings.
"I've also endured the deaths of my two husbands, a stepson, two grandchildren, and my middle son in the Vietnam War.
"Yet my youngest son, Aaron, has become a prolific director, in whose movies and television shows my eldest son, Carlos, has often starred. You might know him better by his stage name, Chuck Norris.
"I have twenty-one grandchildren, twenty-three great-grandchildren, and six great-great-grandchildren, so far.
"I've had over twenty surgeries, including one for breast cancer.
"I never graduated from high school. And I don't have a degree from an academic institution. But I'm pretty sure I've earned a doctorate from the school of hard knocks.
"My age is now my resume. My experiences are my credentials. And my beliefs about God and faith come from nine decades of reading the Good Book and practicing its principles."
Mom, Granny and their generations epitomized what it means to be great Americans. We can benefit from their amazing examples if we slow down and take the time to hear their stories and perspectives on life, love and legacy.
Enduring hardship was the name of the game back then. There was no prize without perseverance. It's all still true and necessary today. But in the words of Brooks Hatlen, the elderly convict in "The Shawshank Redemption" who was released from prison at a ripe old age: "The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry." And with it, our patience and perseverance have waned.
I'm all for the advances of our modern age. But I'm also for slowing down the clock to ponder the powers of yesteryear and the wisdom that can come only from persevering on this planet and graduating from that school of hard knocks. My mom and Granny lived as this adage goes: "An oak tree is nothing more than an acorn that held its ground."
Who can overestimate the value of experience, endurance and legacy or the power of handing those values to the next generation? It's what America needs more today than anything else.
Here are a few excerpts about how Granny instilled her family values in my mom and how we can do that for our kids and grandchildren, too:
"Mama, or Ada Agnes Hargrove, was born on March 20, 1894, in Clarksville, Texas, where she lived out her early years. She attended school there up through the third grade. When she was twelve years old, she had to quit school to help her parents out on the farm. When she was fourteen or fifteen years old, the family moved to Oklahoma.
"Early on, people just started calling her Aggie. But later everyone in Wilson would eventually come to know and call her Granny Scarberry. ...
"I can still see in my mind's eye Mama cooking on the large wood cooking stove. That was not the same as the big pot-belly stove, which kept us warm and was my favorite part of our home.
"I loved when Mama made a large pot of beans, corn bread, sliced tomatoes and green onions. And she always cooked homemade bread. She also cooked ham, bacon, gravy and eggs. (I'm not crazy about grits. But I love catfish. And I love fried okra, too.)
"In the afternoon when we came home from school, Mama would be there to greet us with her loving smile. The house would be clean, and the aroma of something like homemade bread would be floating from the kitchen.
"At supper time, we never ate separate from one another, like it seems so many families do today. We all gathered around the table, held hands and said grace, and then we would pass down our plates to Papa and he would fill them. That was the time we came together and shared stories about the day; it was a way for our family to stay connected.
"Even when we were older in Wilson, with families of our own, the whole family would get together once a month. I suppose that I miss that the most. Families don't seem to do that anymore, but they should."
(Next week, I'll give even more examples of my mom and Granny's inspirational legacy.)
On Mother's Day weekend in 2012, my then 91-year-old mom was interviewed by our friend Mike Huckabee on his Fox News Channel show, "Huckabee." If you didn't catch it, you can still watch the interview on my official website, at http://chucknorris.com, the only place where you can order an autographed copy of my mother's autobiography, which makes a great Mother's Day gift. Of course, I'm a bit biased!
Happy 93rd birthday, Mom! You're still an anchor and inspiration for my soul!