by Nikeala Frederick
Elders in the Athens community were the stars of Rabbit Box’s May show called Trying Times and Triumphs, Too, a collaboration with the Athens Community Council on Aging (ACCA). May is nationally recognized as Older Americans Month in the United States. Emcee Dr. Leara Rhodes, who has practiced and now teaches journalism, dug up some interesting facts for the show. Because storytellers hailed from various places — Jamaica, Argentina, India, and Japan — she shared how elders are honored in each of these countries to set the tone as each person took the stage.
The first storyteller of the night, Robert Fernandez, grew up in the Latin Quarter of Tampa, Ybor City, and met the love of his life in the first grade! Their mothers were pregnant with them at the same time, and they were born three days apart. They got married right after high school and spent decades traveling the world together with their growing family as he served in the military before retiring to Athens.
Jamaican-born Kathleen Wright shared a lighthearted story from her memoir At Full Bloom from her days in England as a nursing student.
As an immigrant from Argentina, wife, mother and graduate student, Liliana Carroll experienced several trying times and triumphs upon settling in Athens. The innocent perspective of her young son helped her to stay encouraged through some of the more trying times.
Retired oncologist and eldest of the storytellers, Dr. Narendra Shah, told of his wide range of experiences from work in other countries to life in Athens. A particularly trying time in his career was witnessing the eerie devastation at Chernobyl when traveling there as part of a research team in the melt-down’s aftermath.
Cracker Jack Surprise storyteller Nattie Demesa described her experience of going from having maids and chauffeurs for the first part of her life in Manila to feeling like a maid upon arrival in the United States, where life was much less glamorous than she expected based on what she had seen on TV.
Kathryn Knight Andrews applied to be a firefighter in Athens on a dare from her boyfriend, who also tried out for a spot. She became the first female firefighter in Athens, and she earned that spot with dogged effort and evidence of leadership in the competitive process. But would her relationship last with her boyfriend? And how would the other men — and their wives — react to her?