She loves me like a rock

She loves me like a rock
Mr Chua Poh Soon was once a notorious and vicious gang chief who spent many years in the slammer. The love of his mother, however, helped him turn his life around. Today he is a counsellor for troubled youths.

Footprints freshly minted by the muddy boots of construction workers mark the cement floor of the spanking new Housing Board block in Yishun Street 31.

The walls of the lifts are still lined with cardboard and protective padding to minimise damage as families move in to occupy the five-room units.

Mr Chua Soon Poh's new home - a bright and cheery flat with white floor tiles and white walls - is on the third floor. He moved in two weeks ago with his wife, three children, maid and 86-year-old mother, who is starting to show signs of dementia.

When she is well, Madam Goh Lay Hong - a small, wiry woman with a shock of silver hair and a winsome smile - is chatty and affectionate. But when her illness kicks in, she has been known to accuse Mr Chua of trying to poison her.

"Or she will bang on my bedroom door several times in the middle of the night, asking me to look for her Panadol," the 55-year-old says, shaking his head.

Her loopy behaviour drives him up the wall sometimes but he does not complain.

"She is the most important woman in my life," the stocky man declares passionately in Mandarin. "Without her, I probably won't be here today."

His mother, he says, is the reason he is today a happily married man holding down a steady job as a youth worker and not a hard- core drug addict behind bars or dead from an overdose.

Mr Chua has a past. It is writ large on his body in the gaudy tattoos of serpents, tigers and buxomly women all over his chest and back.

He was a secret society member in his early teens before becoming a hard-core drug addict and pusher, and served three jail terms.

It was his mother's unconditional love and devotion that finally made him change.

"She never gave up on me. She never missed a prison visit, she was always there, telling me to turn over a new leaf. Now it's my turn. I will always take care of her, no matter how difficult," he says.

Garrulous, with a booming voice and the quick manner of one used to taking charge, Mr Chua grew up the second youngest of 10 children in an attap house in a kampung near Bukit Timah's Beauty World.

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