It is the end of an era.
I don’t know how else to say it. Ruby’s doctor has decided that it is time to retire for good and all. Of course, since he is in his 90s, we (his children) have been campaigning for this event for 10 years or more. Giving up the keys to his car was a traumatic event for him. No more driving to the Valverde Clinic where he has practiced medicine for over 50 years.
I was 15 when we moved from Washington D.C. to the sleepy little town of Ruby, S.C. We all knew the area well since we had close family here, so it wasn’t the culture shock it might have been for us. He and my mother, Grace DeFerris Douglas Valverde, opened the office after the big announcement that a doctor had been found for the tiny town and surrounding area. They were excited and pleased with the turnout that soon ensued. The years flew by and many people came through the doors of Valverde Clinic.
When we lost our mother on June 28, 2001, we thought that we would soon lose him, too. But his need to help his community in their own times of need and illness over powered the deep mourning he was in to a certain extent. Two weeks after the funeral, it was back to the office and The Doctor is In.
He was one of the last doctors to make house calls, but when Mama was no longer there, he made them rarely. He often accepted the word of patients that they would pay next time they were in, took goods for service (I remember once a farmer paying in quail … I can’t look at quail anymore much less eat one). Most of the farmers who were patients simply provided the larder with produce out of the goodness of their hearts and fields once they learned of Mama’s love of canning and The Doctor’s love of vegetable soup.
So, here we are in 2014 and the office that once was Valverde Clinic sits in downtown Ruby, empty of patients, empty of life. If I close my eyes I can see the waiting rooms of the clinic that was built for the new doctor, patients filled the two rooms and often spilled out onto the front lawn. He loved those people and was never in it for the money. He treated the local law enforcement for years, saying “you pay me when you get rich,” knowing that they, like him, would never get rich. He saved many lives with his keen diagnostic skills, and cried like a baby over the ones that no one could save.
His children all visited him on this Sunday past and he made the announcement that he thought he was ready to let it go. No more diagnosing, no more patients and close the office for good. Now he will spend his days at home, working in his yard and feeding his fish. Tending the flowers is something he enjoys, too. It is a practice of medicine in a way.
You know, I can remember as a small child his asking me if I knew why they called it practicing medicine. I would always reply no, though I knew what his answer would be …”it is because we have not perfected it yet,” he would reply in that droll way. Well, he came as close to it as anyone.
So, now you know. Dr. Valverde is no longer in the business of medicine, but he is still in the business of friends and y’all know how to find him. Send him a card to congratulate him, let him know you remember when, at 715 E. Main St. in Ruby, SC 29741 has a mailbox now … the Doctor’s heart is in.