The Rock

The matriarch of the family, Isa's great-grandma Shih Wan-chu.
The matriarch of the family, Isa’s great-grandma Shih Wan-chu, in 2010.

Isabel’s middle name is Rock after Grandma Wanchu Shih, or in Chinese, Shih Wan-chu. Her ‘Shih’ (石) is ‘rock’ in Chinese.

Grandma Shih is now 93-years old but still sharp as a tack. She’s a glass-ceiling breaker and a Chinese feminist before there was such a thing. In Taiwan, as she raised three kids, she also was a principal at elite women’s high schools across the island before becoming one of the republic’s first female lawmakers. She’s also a sister to six and a survivor — of Japanese colonization in China in the early part of the 20th century, and then the brutal World War II, in which she led some (but sadly, not all) her siblings in fleeing to Taiwan. I know no one as tough as my grandma. There is no better namesake for Isa.

Grandma spoke of her wishes for familial love and continued ties during a family reunion in 2009. Here’s a part of her speech, translated into English:

“Between 1931 to 1988, competing ideologies resulted in the rupture and destabilization of China’s political system. It was during this political turmoil that our family was separated, in an effort to flee to safety. Consequently, my siblings and I grew up during a very trying time where everyone was forced to fend for themselves. We lost contact with one another. Our biggest regret was not being able to enjoy the blessings of family warmth and sibling love.

Since we endured childhood loneliness without the support of our family, it is our wish that the future generations will see the value and enjoy the blessings of one another’s love and support. It is our hope that after this reunion, the ties of our family love will be our legacy that is passed on to all future generations.”

Here’s hoping that Isabel and her sister Eva won’t be separated by war and political strife. And that they’ll enjoy the love of family, as Grandma Rock wishes.

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