Writing Frank

                                             By  Nancy Sugarman

The only sound on the phone was from Frank. A long whistling sigh, like someone expiring.

I didn’t know what to say. He cried softly when he told me. Not sobbing, but quietly, so as not to intrude.


The next day he came over at 10 on the dot, and we sat at the dining table holding hands. I offered him coffee, but he declined as usual. I asked technical, medical questions, then said nothing much at all.  When we said goodbye, I knew it was the last time, though I said I’d keep in touch.


Frank was a student of mine in 2000. He was a bald, small Italian man, with over-large hands and dark, round eyes. He was a local, one of many migrants and refugees that I have met and taught over the ten years of teaching ESL near my home. Seven years later, he still visited every couple of weeks, when he “passed by” and saw my red car outside my house. He greeted me at the door, “Sorry, sorry, you’re busy, sorry”, kissing me on both cheeks.


Frank’s stories were filled with an old culture’s heart. It was Frank the writer that I loved. There were stories about his favourite football team, his first love, Linda with the face of the Madonna and Ettore, the school yard bully. Vesuvius, the Toscana, Freemantle, Sir Douglas Nichols and the Australian bush were the stories of his life.


There was also the frail and aging Frank I loved, who wrote in his ageing body. He had a heart attack that first year, when his brown skin turned grey overnight. Then his wife’s bowel cancer and treatment and his own bowel cancer was diagnosed, the same exact cancer, discovered only weeks later. He livened up when I visited him after a particularly tough week with chemo, arguing merrily with Maria, his wife, who rolled her eyes. He returned the gesture. “Loca,” he whispered to me, laughing.


Frank grew up near Naples, in San Guiseppe Vesuviano. When the war began, he got an apprenticeship in a shipyard, fixing engines, and repairing ships for Libya. One day he wagged work with his mate and instead of going to work on The Attendolo, they went to the pictures. When they returned to “clock out” they learned the shipyard had been bombed and the ship sunk. The docks were destroyed by the British, an area of 10 miles flattened that day. They were supposed to be dead.


It was what he needed now. Another miracle.

Frank’s story, For the Love of the Game, is an example of his writing. It is a simple story of passion and embracing culture.


For the love of the game


by Frank Prisco


     Come Autumn, the start of football season is also the beginning of my weekly journey to Optus Oval. I go every Thursday afternoon to watch them train.

      My family love is the first thing in my life. My second love is Australian rules football.  I was introduced to the game the first week of my arrival in Australia in 1950.  I liked the game like cheese on pasta. I met with a group of cosmopolitan friends, a mixture of Southern Europeans and good Aussie mates.

      We seat ourselves at the top deck of the Carlton social club. The players go through a warm-up, running around the oval. In the meantime we have our first beer.

If our team won past week, we argue about who was the best player. Con the Greek jumps the gun and says Kouta was the best. I agree he was best by a mile. That doesn’t go down well with the Aussies. They accuse us of being biased. Koutafidis is Australian, born of Greek father and Italian mother. To our surprise the group of  Aussie teenagers near us scream out, Kouta, Kouta, Kouta  and a few spicy remarks.  He’s their  pin-up boy. That settles the argument.

      When one of our gladiators gets hurt, I feel the pain myself. The coach is still not happy and barks instructions.  When they mark the ball, I couldn’t feel more joy. By then we’ve had another beer and finally make our way home, as brothers and sisters in our love for Carlton.

 Frank ran out of luck and died last month. How would he have ended this story?  He would hand over his seat on the top deck to the next generations of brothers and sisters, bonded in their love for the game and in making a difference in their new home.



  1. Vale Frank. Am going to the footy on Saturday with my dad for the first time in decades. We live in different cities. I can remember our first SANFL finals in the 60’s like they were yesterday. Time passes, and it is important to celebrate good ordinary players.
    Thanks for sharing Nancy

  2. Thanks for this, Nancy. Loved it.

  3. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Nancy, some students we never forget and Frank was definitely one with a great, if sad story. I’m sure his family are still flying the navy blue flag in his memory. Thank you.

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