The town of Ruby declared July 5th 2014 Dr. Michael Valverde Day, and it dawned clear and cool. It was to be the official retirement for the Doctor who most everyone called “Dr. Mike.” He had prepared a speech he wanted to give (sans notes) and practiced on his children. He kept asking us it sounded alright. Of course we told him it sounded fine, because it came straight from his heart.
Saturday he was anxious and even before his children arrived at the house he had already shaved, combed and dressed in his best suit. He was ready for the day to be underway and we understood his feelings. To him, it was saying goodbye to a lifetime of work, a lifetime of study. It was saying goodbye to his patients and friends. Finally at 1:45 we left to head to the Town Community Center. It was once the work shop of a dear friend of Dr. Mike and his wife Ms. Grace. Buck Gulledge had been my parents spiritual adviser for many years. His death not to long ago brought tears to us all. Now here we stood, the mayor Keith Bailey, the council members and friend-patients, and of course family, around us. Mr. Mayor addressed the group, explained why we were all there, shook Dr. Mike’s hand and handed over the assembled crowd to the Doctor’s tender mercies.
My father is always at home when he has the floor. He spoke slowly and thoughtfully about our arrival in Ruby. “One day,” he told us all, “my wife called me at the large hospital (DC General) where I worked. She told me that since we had sold the house (a necessity since the interstate highway was about to run through our living room) Daddy Dwight was coming with the big farm truck to move us to Chesterfield. I spoke to the Hospital Director and told him that we would be moving and there was no trouble leaving. The truck arrived and the packing completed we moved to what I now call my home town. I had been invited by my wife’s Uncle Gary (Douglas) and Mr Lloyd Baker, to tour the new building that they wanted to be the Doctor’s Office. I agreed to make my practice here. What it means to be a Doctor, it is many years of study, then it is internship, but you are still not a Doctor. When I called myself a Doctor was when I had patients of my own to care for. I remember one of the first patients I had was an elderly man with cancer. There was nothing I could do for him at that stage, but his wife asked if I would come see him. He was my first House Call. I went to see him many times before his death, checking his vital signs and talking to him calmly and assuring him that I would be there as long as he needed me to be. I was paid for each visit with a piece of cake and a cup of coffee. It was enough. And now I say to you that I have loved being your Doctor, for you are the ones who made me one. I will go home and rest, my legs don’t work well anymore, my back is not strong anymore, somewhere, somehow, I got old. Now I am the one who needs the Doctor, and I can not treat myself. I say to you, goodbye. I will be at home. In Ruby.”
There may have been a dry eye in the house. They weren’t mine.