It’s an amazing feeling to look back on an experience or a period of time in your life that could have been challenging and you say, “Wow, it’s over! Thank G‑d, we made it; we did it!”

I’m going to be perfectly honest: My father-in-law’s (may G‑d bless him!) six-week visit was one of those experiences. He came for his 90th birthday and to spendIt was almost like taking care of another child the holidays with us. Let me repeat for emphasis, my father-in-law is 90 (thank G‑d)! In years, he could very easily be my grandfather, and it’s amazing that he came and that we had the honor—yes, the honor—to host him.

My father-in-law is a noble, very traditional man—a gentleman from generations ago. Being with him is like a real-life history lesson. And so, our visits are always interesting. As the years pass and the visits get longer, I reflect on my attitude towards them and on my own behavior.

My father-in-law, as I mentioned, he’s, well, old. I’m in awe of how much he can still do, though he can’t see or hear so much. Everything he does takes time and patience.

I knew what his visit would mean; it would mean, to a certain extent, a lot of work on my part. It was almost like taking care of another child, as my children pointed out to me: “Mommy, why do you have to cut the peel off Abuelito’s [Grandfather’s] apple like Yosef [our toddler]?” The toddler wobbles and waddles. We gasp as he almost falls. Abuelito leans onto my husband for support as he walks. We gasp as he almost falls. We speak loudly and slowly, pronouncing each word, not sure if Yosef, our baby, understands. We speak loudly and clearly to Abuelito, not sure if he hears or understands. This one is tired and needs a nap. This one is also tired and needs a nap. This one needs a bib, and really, so does this one. Two opposite stages in life, and yet the similarities are more than the differences. The circle of life is illustrated right in front of me.

You get the picture. It’s a month-and-a-half of juggling between a person’s physical needs and their emotional ones. A month-and-a-half of trying to make him comfortableI heard his comments and really listened to his critiques and happy, of trying to maintain his respect, keeping calm and patient. And while little Yosef is cute and can be easily made to laugh by making funny faces, Abuelito cannot.

Our first Shabbat dinner with Abuelito I made, what I was told, was his favorite traditional Syrian dishes. He was grateful, but as always, frank and a little bit too honest. “I love this dish, but I can’t eat it. It’s doesn’t taste like my mother’s or like your mother-in-law’s recipe, may they rest in peace. If you want to know how to make it, that it should really taste good, call . . . ”

I listened. I heard his comments and his critiques about almost everything. “Elana, you don’t put enough salt in the food.” I placed the salt shaker right in front of him. The water wasn’t cold enough. Thank G‑d for ice, but ice, too, becomes warmer once it’s in refrigerated cold water. If it’s new, he won’t try it because he’s sure he won’t like it—because “It’s not what I’m used to.” I listened and when I could accommodate, I really tried. When I couldn’t, I accepted that I couldn’t. Yes, I accepted that I couldn’t and I made a HUGE realization from this past visit, which was different from visits before.

I wasn’t hurt or insulted. If anything, I must say I had a good laugh about it all and smiled. What was it that was so different with this visit?

I have been working on myself!

King Solomon writes: “Everything has an appointed season, and there is a time for every matter under the heaven.” (Kohelet 3:1)

I thought to myself, “I’m not a very young newlywed woman with a 90-year-old father-in-law. I’ve been married 16 years. That’s 16 years to work on myself. Now, after all these years, I can hear a comment or a criticism and just take it or leave it. Years to learn how to accept and years to learn how to love unconditionally.”

The Talmud (Avodah Zara 3a) brings a teaching of our sages: “G‑d does not give his creations anything that they cannot handle.”

What does that mean? It means that each of us has the potential to withstand any stress, trial or tribulation that we face in our life. Whether we do withstand the test is a different story, but by definition we have to know that we can—that it’sI must say, I miss him not beyond our capabilities. This teaching comes to tell us, to guarantee us that just as G‑d gives us, His children a difficult task, He also gives us the ability to deal with that task.

But how can that be? It can be when we realize that yes, we do have the potential. But we have to work and put in our efforts to actualize it.

Abuelito returned home, and I must say I miss him. The visit wasn’t easy, but like I said, it was such an honor. I’m grateful that he could come, and I treasured every minute of it.