'I'm Walking Out With You Alone': A StoryCorps Love Story
Every morning, Danny Perasa would pen a note to his wife, Annie, that he stuck on the kitchen table to remind her that he loves her. It would read something like "To my princess, the weather out today is extremely rainy. I'll call you at 11:20 in the morning." And always end with "I love you, I love you, I love you."
"I say it to remind you that as dumpy as I am, it's coming from me. It's like hearing a beautiful song from a busted old radio. And it's nice of you to keep the radio around the house," Danny told Annie when the Brooklynites first came to StoryCorps back in 2004. Thereafter, they visited StoryCorps countless times to chronicle their love story.
A "romantic weather report," Danny jokingly called the notes. Annie, a nurse, said there was something wrong if Danny, a horse-betting clerk, didn't write that daily love letter to her. "The only thing that could possibly be wrong is I couldn't find a silly pen," Danny replied.
Two years after Annie and Danny's exchange, Danny was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. During Danny's last days, they meticulously planned for when they would be apart for the first time in the nearly 30 years they'd been married.
"We try to give each other hope and not hope that I'll live, hope that she'll do well after I pass, hope that people will support her, hope that if she meets somebody and likes him, she marries him," Danny said when StoryCorps visited their home in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to record one last interview after his diagnosis.
It had been a whirlwind romance. Danny proposed to Annie on their first date. She said yes. Danny said that being married to her was like having a color television set, and he never wanted to go back to black and white.
"She lights up the room in the morning when she tells me to put both hands on her shoulders so that she can support me. She lights up my life when she says to me at night, 'Wouldn't you like a little ice cream?' Or 'Would you please drink more water?' " Danny said in 2006. "I mean, those aren't very romantic things to say, but they stir my heart."
Annie told Danny that she wants to walk out behind his casket alone. "I walked in with you alone, I'm walking out with you alone," she told him.
Danny said that he hadn't come to terms with dying and leaving his wife.
"I want to come to terms with being sure that you understand that my love for you up to this point was as much as it could be and it'll be as much as it could be for eternity," Danny said. "I always said, 'The only thing I have to give you was a poor gift and it's myself.' And I always gave it. And if there's a way to come back and give it, I'll do that too."
The same day the story aired in 2006, Danny had died. Soon, Annie received thousands of condolence letters from listeners.
She read one letter every day. That was until she died on Aug. 14 of COVID-19. She was 79. Now, her family is asking listeners to get vaccinated in her memory.
"In my mind and my heart there has never been, there is not now and never will be another Annie," Danny said.
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo with Sarah Kramer. NPR's Dalia Faheid adapted it for the web.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.
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