Name that Muppet: My uncle Herbie Niblick, and Me.
“Your granddaddy don’t dance, and your grandma don’t rock n’ roll like mine…”
What would it take me to speak up, to hoot and holler and say “hey, y’all I have a story to tell”?
They killed my clown. Oh, it’s just this fantasy in my head. They didn’t really kill my clown, there’s not even really a ‘they’. My grandpa died is all. He was a clown, and he died, and that damn near killed me.
And the curious thing is, I have no idea if he believed himself. I mean, I know grandma does?—?she’s that whole evangelical pentecostal holy spirit healing and hoopla kind of religiousity, something that I saw plenty more of being raised in the South.
… but that’s not the point either, the point is simply, you died.
Grandpa died. Grandma Hilton is all I have left.
It’s time to start telling stories.
— I’m testing my voice. I’m testing with a tease. Please offer critique, I get by with a little help of my friends. My friends have always been on the internet.
He and my grandma Madonna conjured up fifteen kids to fill up an old large white house on Hessen Cassel in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to go to school with the Niblick kids. My momma has a clue, rumor has it that it was not just one, but at least two of the Niblick boys that she’d dated.
You’ll note that there are just three girls, and twelve strapping handsome boys—my daddy is the long haired one, cross-legged, front and center, Matthew Raymund Morris Michael Niblick.
In 1983 when my daddy died, I remember my momma “getting sad” from a song on the television. It was Judy Collins on the Muppet Show, Send in the Clowns (video below).
Until now, it had never occurred to me whether or not any of her sadness came from the fact that his daddy was a clown,… and how it must feel for a parent to lose their child. Isn’t enough that she was just 21, widowed with two children, and pregnant with her third?
Sometimes life just isn’t fair.
I had wanted to talk to my Grandpa Niblick about his time in Nicaragua. A little bit after my grandma died a few years ago he up and moved to Nicaragua.
It wasn’t entirely shocking as my Aunt Tina had been in Barbados for what seems like forever. She, known in her work as Sister La’el, tells me, “he clowned for MANY years, even while in Nicaragua. During the service years he was also in Africa and Greenland.”
I think it’s only appropriate, twenty eight years later, to play Send in the Clowns.
This time, it’s for my grandpa, who was always the only clown that mattered in my life.
It started with opening facebook to a post Patrick Terry had just put up:
“That’s all I wanted, something special,
Something sacred in your eyes,
For just one moment, to be bold and naked
At your side”
I wondered for a moment at who wrote it as I gestured over the comment notifications, coming to one from a name I know from my oldest memories, Rosalee.
Rosalee Matt was a great artist, he had his Lincoln Life uniform on. I hope Arlene saved some of his work, it was amazing.
Angela Baxley Hey Rosalee—unfortunately I don’t think we have anything left of his. It seems each piece one by one met by some untimely demise along the way. I’m most heart broken over the one he painted specifically for me. If you do come across anything of his, including reproductions, Heather and I would love to collect whatever we can.
Pam That’s you, Heather—in his expression!
Lisa Is that the hat that they gave your brother in December? The one of your Dad’s!
Heather You know—I don’t know. I’ll hafta ask Momma. That would make it that much more special!
Lisa Yes it would.
Heather It certainly does look like it!
Lisa That’s what I thought. I think it was Wonda was tagged, ended up being your pics. So I was checking them out again. But it’s time since your trip home. When I looked at this one I was like OMG I think that is the hat!
Angela Wow. That makes me so happy. I’ve always hated Matthew hasn’t had anything of his. It seems so unfair they never met—they look just alike. It’s so hard to see my father stuck at the same age as my brother. We’ve all grown older than he has now.
If you have any artwork by the artist Matthew Raymond Niblick (1958-1983), this is my father. Please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org.
This morning via Twitter I was alerted to the Facebook “Other” inbox—others also being made aware that there might be messages missed… I went to check and there was a message from a nun in Wisconsin responding to this post. She had written in February:
A friend of mine is doing research on the paintings in the back of St. Michael Church, in Dane, Wis… I know that these were painted by Matthew Niblik as they are signed..
He painted these pictures when our church was new…1975. One of St. Michael sending Lucifer to hell, one of Our Lady of Guadalupe and one of our school and church.
I remember he had a sister who is a sister of St. Agnes…Sister Lael.
Not sure if this helps you.
longtime teacher at St. Michael…now Blessed Trinity School.
I’m hoping to they’ll be able to send digital photos — so exciting to really get to see artwork of his we’ve never seen!