Slowly Saying Goodbye to a Good Friend
For what it's worth, I've dreaded writing this for about 2 years.
For what it’s worth, I’ve dreaded writing this for about 2 years.
Dutch Treitz was a friend of mine. Our relationship went far beyond a bar owner and a pharmacist. Although money was exchanged at each other’s places of business, it was more than that.
I learned we were friends when I went to his father-in-law’s funeral service and stayed for the entire thing. When I left the funeral luncheon at his aptly-named Dutchman Tavern, he kissed me on the cheek when I said goodbye, and I returned the gesture.
Two years ago, Dutch was diagnosed with a highly-aggressive, incurable cancer. He was given 2 years to live, and all I could do was watch it happen. It brought back memories of watching helplessly as my father deteriorated beyond recognition until he died mercifully. Even with a pharmaceutical arsenal behind me, I couldn’t save either of them.
Dutch and I had a lot in common, namely an undying love of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Needless to say, the Dutchman is a Steelers-friendly environment.
Dutch and I had separately attended games at Heinz Field, but we both found the same things fascinating about the experience. Like what you hear at the game that you don’t on television, namely:
PA announcer: And that’s a Pittsburgh Steelers...
Home crowd: FIRST DAHN!
We had a good laugh over that.
My bucket list included watching a Steelers game at the Dutchman. I saw 2: the 2015 season opener at Heinz against the 49ers, and the chippiest playoff game I ever saw versus the Bengals. Big Ben pulled a Lazarus by returning to the game after an injury and getting the ball into field goal range, thanks to a few key first downs and 30 yards of penalties against the nefarious Bengals.
The Steelers were victorious and the bar erupted, with Dutch giving high fives to all. It was the last game I watched with him. When the Steelers got knocked out of the playoffs, I was sad because I knew it was Dutch’s last shot to see them go for a seventh Lombardi trophy. A few weeks later, on the anniversary of my dad’s death, Dutch and I drank a 7&7 (dad’s signature drink) in honor of our fathers and their sons.
Earlier this summer, I went to the bar for my traditional weekend-off celebration, and I noticed Dutch’s office door was open. I checked on him, and he was so yellow that I had to make sure it wasn’t the light in his office. Unfortunately, it was just his cancer winning.
“It’s weird watching yourself die,” he told me.
What do you say to that? “I’m sorry, Dutch. I love you,” was the best I could do.
I couldn’t sleep the other night, so I got on Facebook. The first thing I saw was a picture of Dutch kissing his wife with a multitude of comments and teary emoticons. I knew he was gone.
My wife woke up around the same time, turned on NFL Network, and the last game we saw with Dutch was being rebroadcast. I’m convinced he was saying goodbye to us.
I was okay at work until Dutch’s sister came in and tearfully told me and my team that she couldn’t have taken care of Dutch without our help. There wasn’t a dry eye in the pharmacy. This one really hurt.
When the Steelers kick off Monday Night Football this year, I’ll be in the Dutchman raising a glass to my friend and remembering the good times. Safe travels, Dutch.
Jay Sochoka, RPh, misses his friend.