My Hedge, My Cancer: We’re Both Going to Make It

My Hedge, My Cancer: We’re Both Going to Make It
“It’s dead, Mom.” I looked toward my neighbor’s house, which used to be blocked by a wall of solid green. Lauren’s outstretched finger pointed to a row of skeletal shrubs and a carpet of crispy leaves. Beyond it, our neighbor’s house was clearly visible. Our hedge was dead. When we bought our house in the desert three years ago, I planted that hedge myself. It was a million degrees outside, but I slid a shovel into the sandy earth over and over again and watched a barren landscape give way to transformation. This summer, though, while we were busy vacationing, monitoring wildfires, and dealing with an extended stay at the hospital, our sprinkler must have broken. Some afternoons, the thermometer here tops 120 degrees, and without water, it doesn’t take long for most plants to give up. Now our hedge looks like it has cancer. Lauren and I walked along the row of shrubbery listening to the crunch beneath our feet, and I felt sweat soaking through my T-shirt. Thirty-eight ficus trees, some in crisis mode and others completely dead, stretched in a long, bleak line. My husband, Gary, was in the hospital, and I had spent the week running back and forth between him and Lauren, doing my best to take care of both of them but falling short of the mark. Lauren and I shook cascades of brittle leaves off thirsty branches and then went in for the evening. Early the next morning, while Lauren slept and before my first visit to Gary’s bedside at the hospital, I connected three hoses together, heaved them to the side of the yard, and started drenching parched roots and sculptural formations of bare branches. We’d spent thousands of dollars on those plants, and they were just coming into their own before this disaster. A handful of green leaves c
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