Cold Iron Truth

The apricot tree


My apricot tree has bloomed. It is a foolish tree planted by a foolish man since it blossoms, with beautiful pink then white flowers, at least 3 weeks too early in Northern Kentucky. Nonetheless, I am hopeful that it will produce fruit, maybe this year.

Dr. Brett M. Coldiron, a dermatologist and Mohs surgeon in Cincinnati.

Dr. Brett M. Coldiron

The apricot tree takes me back to my early childhood in Oklahoma City. We had a small apricot tree in the backyard of our rental house, and my dad would talk about how there was nothing finer than a sun ripened apricot. Those were happy times. My dad was a milkman and was home every day by late afternoon, though he was still taking classes at night to try to finish his degree. My mother was at home and my older brother in first grade down the street. My little sister was small and tried to keep up.

My time was unstructured, and I reveled in the backyard. In retrospect, the backyard was an open display of broken and hoped for dreams. There was a junked car my best friend Alvin and I would sit in, there was a huge tree stump we sat on and played around, we had an old slow dog named Pooch, gifted to us when my mom’s sister moved to Alaska. We ran around with no shirts or shoes, played and pretended, and carefully watched the apricot tree.

I remember one time when the apricots finally ripened. My father climbed up and got me one, and it was so sweet I did not notice that the juice ran down my face and my bare chest. It was the sweetest and most wonderful thing I have ever tasted. All the better for having to wait for it.

The current pandemic has once again made my life unstructured, with a lot of free time to think. I have had four major meetings canceled and though my livelihood and life are at risk, I feel oddly free and happy. I am no longer under those pressures to research, write, and present, and am spending at lot of time at home with my wife and daughter. I think I will clean out the garage (who knows what I will find?) and work in the backyard – and keep a close watch on the apricot tree.

As many of you have, I have awkwardly embraced telemedicine in the past. It is interesting now, how HIPAA regulations and state licensing requirements have finally been tossed aside, making it possible to practice telemedicine. I suspect things will stay that way if it is demonstrated they are unnecessary.

In my office, we are depopulating the waiting room and autoclaving face masks. I am cleaning out the stockroom and donating extra gloves, gowns, and masks to the local hospital. We may shut down altogether. There is little more I can do unless called to man a ventilator. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I will serve if called.

I suggest you embrace your current unstructured time and use it to let your mind roam. It is a reprieve from today’s hyperconnected, hurly burly world. I also suggest you check COVID-19 news updates only once a day and turn off television news altogether. Other than following the recommendations and guidance of public health authorities, there is nothing you can do to speed up the resolution of this pandemic.

No matter how awful, this will pass. It is a warm spring and it is possible the apricot tree will not be bitten by frost, and we may have fruit this year. We should know in about 2 months. I am going to keep a close watch on it.

Dr. Coldiron is in private practice but maintains a clinical assistant professorship at the University of Cincinnati. He cares for patients, teaches medical students and residents, and has several active clinical research projects. Dr. Coldiron is the author of more than 80 scientific letters, papers, and several book chapters, and he speaks frequently on a variety of topics. He is a past president of the American Academy of Dermatology. Write to him at [email protected].

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