When we think of a father, we have a picture of a male parent who is ultimately the head of the family, breadwinner, protector et al. But once in a while, older siblings assume this role. As we mark Father’s Day this weekend, we celebrate David Macharia, who at 19 years became a father figure to his siblings
Grace Wachira @yaa_grace
David Macharia had just turned 19. He had sat for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams the previous year. He was still pondering what the future held for him. But five days after David celebrated his birthday, he lost his mother—the pillar of their home.
“I still remember that fateful day of June, 2011. We lost mum to stress, depression and diabetes,” he recalls.
Worse still, their father was not physically or emotionally present for them during this trying period. “It was during this time that I learnt my father had another family. It was part of the reason my mother had succumbed to depression. We couldn’t wrap our minds around the fact that our father had another wife. So we never established a relationship with her. He would often juggle homes and as such, he was not quite present,” David says.
As a firstborn of the family, David matured overnight. His mother’s death nudged him into responsibility. “Our last born, Martin, was only three, Catherine was nine and Elizabeth was 15. We were all too young and were now grappling with the demise of our mother and our absent father who had also resorted to heavy drinking,” David says.
Even though their father was away, he chipped in when it came to school fees. “But that’s as far as that went; everything else, was on me. I had to put my life on hold and shelf my dream of pursuing political science or human resource and step up to my new role of a parent. My siblings needed guidance and assurance in life and I had to be there for them. We live by ourselves,” the 26-year-old says.
Making ends meet
Consequently, he took up odd jobs to make ends meet. “I worked as a mason, a laundry guy, really anything I could do to make sure we had our meals, pocket money and money for daily use,” he explains.
To date, David has learnt to take any job to make ends meet. He is a cab driver, works as a broker and repairs fridge. “Wearing these shoes has been tough, but God has indeed seen us through. I remember once in 2017 we fell out with our father after he chased my siblings away from home. It just widened the rift between us, but since I love peace, I stood up to him. We at least needed peace and our home is not one that tolerates chaos,” says the soft-spoken David.
He wears all the three hats; brother, parent and priest in their house. “My dad now lives with us. He has tuberculosis and I’m the one who takes care of him with the help of my uncles once in a while. His other wife visits him once in a while, but does that when my siblings and I are not around,” he says.
David makes major decisions in the family such as when his siblings need to change schools and attend their academic meetings dutifully. “Catherine is in high school and Martin is in primary school. I cater for their needs and I always provide direction for them. I have also anchored them in God,” says the staunch Christian.
His sister, Elizabeth, is in college. “She’s studying a secretariat course, Catherine wants to be a doctor and Martin a pilot,” he says.
Elizabeth celebrates her elder brother. “He is my mzae. I am grateful to God for him. He gives me pocket money and ensures we have food on the table. He was the glue that kept us together when our father chased us away from home, when we had to repeat classes just so he could get enough money to see us through school,” she says.
He guides her in her dasting life. “I can’t date before I inform him. He is involved and keeps us safe,” Liz, as she is fondly called, says.
He beams when he finds his siblings praying. “Our mother raised us right. Unity, love, respect and peace are values the four of us uphold. We are inseparable and we stick together,” he says.
However, his younger brother misses a complete nuclear family. “I remember once Martin saw a complete family enjoying a stroll and he noted how it would have been so much fun if our parents were there with us to enjoy a pizza— that reality dawned on us. It is just the four of us,” he sighed.
But being a father to his siblings has its challenges. “I give my all to them, my time, my attention, my love, my resources. This has cost me a few heartbreaks,” David admits.
“It’s not easy to date a girl who will understand me and the kind of responsibilities I shoulder and love me for me. But it’s all worth it. My siblings are my priority,” he adds.
It helps that he has supportive family and even more, supportive friends. “I think getting through this and holding onto the reigns has been made possible by the friends and family God has given us. Despite it all, we have never talked back to our father, we respect him still, but thus far, I have steered this ship,” he says.