updated 16 Aug 2014, 18:39
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Thu, Jun 05, 2014
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Married for third time at 63 after vowing to stay single
by Ng Sor Luan

On Oct 17, Mr Baden Lim, 63, legally tied the knot with Madam Cai Bao Yu, 50, at the Registry of Marriage in Fort Canning.

It was his third marriage, and her first.

Mr Lim believed he would never settle down again after his first two marriages failed. He and his second wife divorced 18 years ago.

The former offshore surveyor first got married when he was 29 to a clerk. Their daughter came along two years later.

The couple drifted apart because Mr Lim was then often away from home, working in China and other South-east Asian countries. He returned home one day to find her pregnant with another man's child.

They divorced in 1990, and he got custody of their daughter.

Relatives urged him to remarry, saying his child needed the care and guidance of a mother. He relented when his daughter - then 11 years old and cared for by relatives - said she wanted to live in her own home.

His relatives introduced him to a 30-year-old clerk from Hainan Island in China. He flew there to meet her a few times.

In September 1993, he arranged for her to come to Singapore. Two days after her arrival, they got married.

Another two days later, he left his new wife and his daughter in their four-room flat in Ang Mo Kio and returned to China to work.

He came home three months later on term leave and discovered that neither he nor his daughter could get along with his new bride.

He filed for divorce, which took five years to finalise and cost him $40,000 in settlement money.

Disillusioned with his experiences, he decided he was done with marriage and even went for a vasectomy.

"At that time, my daughter was still young. She was still in school, so I had to take care of her. She became my priority; I didn't feel confident and safe having another family," he explains.

By then, his daughter was studying at a polytechnic and had started living on her own.

Mr Lim went on to have two other relationships in China. But they ended because he was adamant about not walking down the aisle again.

The tall, slim man changed his mind only after a series of health scares landed him in hospital.

While working on an oil rig in China on a couple of occasions, he felt breathless and nearly collapsed. A health check revealed that he had a weak heart.

He decided to return home in 2006.

His employers gave him lighter duties. But after another near collapse, his doctor advised him to retire.

"When I ended up in the hospital, I started thinking. I'm in the final years of my life. In the hospital, I saw husbands and wives and I started thinking that perhaps I should get a life companion too," says Mr Lim, adding that he felt lonely in his four-room flat in Ang Mo Kio.

At that time, his daughter, who did a degree in nursing and a master's in environmental safety in Australia, had started working as a nurse in Brisbane.

Having spent most of his life working overseas, he found it difficult to make new friends and adapt to life in Ang Mo Kio.

"You know in HDB blocks, everybody closes their doors. It was hard to meet other people unless you were in a playground or leisure corner open to everybody," he says.

On the advice of his eldest brother, he decided to buy a unit at Golden Jasmine - a studio apartment project with a service centre catering to the health and social needs of the elderly - in Bishan in 2010.

While waiting for the apartment to be ready, he moved in with his brother and his family. The experience intensified his longing for a life-partner.

The move to Golden Jasmine did wonders for his spirits and social life. He made new friends with a group of outgoing senior citizens living in the same block.

They take meals together, hang out regularly and bond over taiqi, karaoke and gardening sessions. They would also accompany one another when they had to make visits to the doctor, and check on those missing from their activities.

Late last year, Mr Lim met Madam Cai who is from Hainan Island.

She is the sister-in-law of one of his cronies.

They met when he visited Hainan.

"She can cook and is good with household chores. She's simple and not materialistic. I've heard stories of men being cheated by women from China, but she is very caring and friendly," he says.

It helps that Madam Cai gets on famously with his friends from Golden Jasmine.

There is no shame in getting married at 63, he says. In fact, many of his loved ones and friends encouraged him to do so.

Now 33, his daughter Alina Lim says: "I am happy he's found a life-partner. Everyone needs a companion in life and he certainly deserves a good one."

Settling down has given him a new spring in his step.

"Sometimes thinking about eating at home makes me smile," he says, alluding to his wife's culinary skills.

"Time passes faster. Even programmes on TV are more interesting when you have a partner to watch them with," he says.

He has also become more motivated, and pays more attention to his health.

"I have to stay healthy, I have to stay strong, so every morning I have to get up and exercise," he says.

Breaking out into a sheepish grin, Mr Lim says he wants this marriage to work.

"If this turns good and right, I can tell you my life is perfect," he says.

His biggest wish now is to get a long-term visa for his wife, who currently holds an extended visit pass.

This article was first published on June 1, 2014.
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