It was the late 1970s. My grandfather bought a house in Hartenbos and he, my grandmother and their two sons (the oldest one being my father) were there on holiday. It was in the days when Hartenbos still basically consisted of a lot of asbestos houses and had the minimum permanent residents. The afternoon in question was not a good day in this Snyman family’s life. My great-grandfather, who was on holiday with them, suffered a stroke and was hospitalized with all the drama and worry that came with it. They had just arrived at the beach house after the whole drama, totally fatigued. What happened then would give rise to one of those stories that each family has and is reminded over and over …
See, a man unexpectedly found himself standing in the frame of the beach house. The front door was one of those two-door doors and only the lower door was closed. The man greeted me kindly. Before my grandfather was able to stop, he found the cut of the door and before anyone could recount it, he sat down on one of the chairs, ready for a nice chat. He was blissfully unaware of the situation the family was in and was blind to the discomfort on everyone’s faces.
The man was vaguely known to my grandfather and the rest of the family. He was a well-known face in Hartenbos. It is as if he was constantly walking up and down the streets in search of companionship. He had a reputation for longevity and some speculated that he was weak and actually belonged to an institution. The moment he sat down on my grandfather’s living room sofa that day, he upheld his reputation. He began to talk extensively about the healing power of guava leaves. My grandfather was a bank manager for Volkskas. In those years it was a position of authority in which people embarrassed to talk to you on your time and terms. This man did not respect either of them and my grandfather started cooking from the inside as the conversation went on. What started with his sons as concern and fear of what could have led to now has turned into a giggle, the kind of giggle you get when you know you may not be laughing right now. The tears seemed to flow as they entangled themselves in my grandfather’s irritation and tried to swallow their laughter.
Finally, after my grandfather made a herculean effort to listen to the man over his guava leaves and stay polite, the man eventually took the road. After that day he would always be known as the old “Guava leaf” and as a boy hardly ever passed a Christmas which this story was not told.
Today I think of Guava leaf again. I think we all sometimes end up in such “not-just-that-too” situations.
I think we avoid these situations, want to escape and sometimes pray past, but also how such times always have a hidden gift. It is as if these situations have often become, over the years, a type of parable that stays with us and teaches us valuable things of life.
You see, I think our emotions rather than the events themselves are much like old Guava leaf. It unwantedly enters us like uninvited guests. It stays there longer than we want it there and tells us a story we don’t want to hear. We wish it away and feel we will do anything to escape it. But that is the guava leaf thing now … if you ignore him, he will stay longer and tell his story just one more time. The only way to make a meaningful move back into the background of your life is to grit your teeth, look him in the eyes and listen to him.
Emotions work that way too. If we try to ignore their unwanted presence, they only become more severe and cause harm. You can get up and flee to another room of your soul when they arrive because your soul is a much bigger place than your house on Hartenbos. But if you do, old Guava leaf will be at its most harmful. Then he breaks stuff in the rooms you flee from. Worst of all if you ignore him for a long time, he pulls in and hides for you in the great house of your soul. Then you hear him every now and then — the scare thundering sounds of his destruction. You sometimes come across his damage in rooms and other times you see to your dismay he stole tools you need to do important work in your home.
The best is to confront him, look him in the eye and listen carefully to what he tells you about life. You’re not going to do the way he does it. You are not going to like how long he goes on or at what time he arrives at you. But if you listen to him long enough, patient enough and fine enough, you will make a surprising discovery. You will find out that he has something very true and valuable to share with you. Something that might one day help you a lot or something that might help you to help others. You will see that he will take the road after all.
You see, old Guava leaf was right. Go Google it. Guava leaves really have an incredible healing effect. Invest in it while you are still healthy.
Author: Gawie Snyman