My brother’s birthday was last week; he would have been 49 years old. I say “would have” because he passed away 20 years ago this year. My big brother – and one of my favorite people ever – Steven Michael Teepe, in his short life inspired me but the I didn’t fully appreciate his lessons until I was much older.
Steve taught me so many things that really had an impact on who I am today. I think it is because of him that I accept myself and stopped listening to the “well-meaning” advice of others in how I should live my life, whom I should be and what I should be doing. Because of my brother, I learned how to jump off cliffs.
I am pretty well known for my sarcasm. You can thank Steve as he was the one that taught me the art of sarcasm – mostly by being the recipient of his. Let me tell you, he was a master. He was one of those people that could deliver a sharp jab but you didn’t realize you were wounded until you walked away. Oh and “the look”, I defiantly got this from him, mostly because he always gave it to me!
He was a genius – verifiable and undeniable a genius. He taught me to appreciate intelligence and never use it as a weapon nor as a shield to look over and down upon anyone else. Having a genius brother help you with homework could have been excruciating, but he taught me there is always a way to teach others – you just need to find a way in which to communicate.
He taught me that you can love someone and at times not like them. My mom tells me the story of how she found him holding me by my feet over the railing of the staircase in our home. Yes, there were times he did not like me very much, but I knew he always loved me. And no, he did not drop me on my head – although it could explain a lot…
He helped develop my love for music. He played clarinet and so when it was my time to pick an instrument that is what I chose as well. I could never have been as good as him – he was amazing, second only to Frank Glover. He never once used his talents to demean me or remind me of how good he was, instead he encouraged me to improve, offered me guidance and when he went to college he entrusted me with his clarinet. I taught myself oboe in high school and he was the first person I wanted to tell, the one person I had hoped to impress.
Most of all he taught me to be yourself be damned the consequences. As with all his valuable lessons, he taught me by his own example.
He received a full ride to college and attended a school in Texas. While there he did two important things: he came out and he was an advocate for the gay community. People had stupidly ask me what it is like having a brother who is gay or how did I feel about it. I knew Steve as my brother, not my gay brother, just my brother. I knew him as a person, not a title. The only thing I told my brother was that I would be pissed if his dates were cuter than mine.
In the early 1980s AIDS was in its infancy in terms of an epidemic and public knowledge. Steve was very active and vocal within all communities, gay and straight, about this very dangerous and unknown disease. He encouraged all to educate and protect themselves. At one point the college he was attending was threatened by such a vocal revolutionary – especially in the taboo worlds of homosexuality and deadly diseases and threatened to revoke his scholarships. Basically they were telling him to shut up or else and he basically told them bring it on. He informed them that if they took any retaliatory action he would notify every media outlet of their actions. He didn’t back down and he continued with his cause with his head held high.
He graduated that college with honors and went on to earn his Masters at Indiana University. My mom told my grandmother upon his completion that he was a Logician, to which my grandmother (of failing hearing) replied, “He’s a Magician?”
From there he went to work at the Chicago Board of Exchange. He was in an exciting field, making great money and his career path looked bright. Then he quit and went back to bartending. He tended bar in college and loved it and returned to his love, which meant more to him than any amount of money or prestige.
My brother was a hero to me. He was a revolutionary, a visionary, a rule-breaker, a sarcastic intellectual, kind-hearted, good natured, quick to smile, stubborn, creative, musically gifted, loving man.
There are times in life that we want to take the easy path, stop fighting for what we believe in even if that is ourselves, because it would be much easier to conform to the “norm”. If I ever start to feel overwhelmed with a situation I think of my brother. In no way have I ever had seen circumstances as he did and have so much to fight against just by being myself as he did.
Then I think about how, in living his life, he taught me the greatest lesson: to just be me, no matter what any one says, thinks or does to deter me – say what I think, believe in myself, stand up for others, fight the fight, go big or go home, act for myself not the approval of the “norm”, try new things, fail and learn, listen to myself, trust in myself, follow my heart, love freely, forgive, keep moving forward, do what I do to the best of my ability and stay true to myself.
Steve would never admit to teaching me all of those things listed above. He would probably roll his eyes at this long list. I was always more of a talker than him; he was much simpler in his delivery. So to honor him and his style let me summarize: to hell with anyone else – do you.
Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.