“You’re a treasure,” Gene told me. Each Wednesday at noon, I played an out-of-tune piano in the assisted living facility that he and Elsa, his wife of 65 years, called home. Hearty and congenial, Gene waxed sentimental during my programs of songs from the 1930s and 1940s, while Elsa basked quietly in his presence.
One August day a few months after we met, Gene asked if I knew a song that included the line “On the corner there’s a cloud bank, and we bank our millions there.” I didn’t. “There’s also something about a castle.” That’s all he could remember. The song seemed important to him; I promised I would try to find it.
A quick Internet search later that afternoon revealed the song’s title: “We’re the Couple in the Castle,” written for the 1941 animated film Mr. Bug Goes to Town, a love story about a grasshopper and his honeybee sweetheart. The movie flopped and Gene probably didn’t see it. More likely he heard the song on a popular recording made by Glenn Miller and his orchestra.
The next week I found Gene in the dining room having a lively conversation with a fellow World War II Marine veteran. When I showed him the sheet music for his song, complete with lyrics, he beamed. “I’d sure like a copy of that,” he said. I filled his request in the staff office, and he carefully tucked the pages into the pack strapped to his wheelchair.
I played the piece for Gene and Elsa twice that day. They sat side by side, lost in the music, their eyes glistening. I made sure to include “The Couple in the Castle” among my selections each week in September. Then, in October, Gene died unexpectedly. I didn’t see Elsa again.
The music I shared with them was a profoundly personal gift—for all three of us.
Copyright © 2013 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.