The lives of five brothers and sisters born in North Dakota who were separately adopted at infancy took the twists and turns that 50 years bring. Some moved to different states; some married; some had children. But none of them ever knew the others existed.
Then, the obituary of their biological mother presented a clue. And when they finally met, one brother realized he wasn't so unfamiliar with one of his siblings. John Maixner had been greeted a half a dozen times or so by his sister at their local Walmart in Dickinson, N.D., where she has worked for 23 years.
Again, this is not a Genetic Sexual Attraction article, but there are some things to note (especially when you consider that up to 50% of people in a reunion/introduction do experience GSA)...
"February 19 was the first time I heard her voice," Handtmann told The Associated Press Wednesday. "I will never forget that day."And...
They arranged to meet at Handtmann's home in Bismarck, N.D.
"It was unbelievable," Bullinger said. "We are in our 50s. I was so nervous to meet her, and when I opened that door, I didn't know what to say. You don't know what to do. It was so special."
All five siblings reunited for the first time at Handtmann's home in October. John Blankendall, 53, drove from Tennessee and Sandy Watkins, 54, flew in from California.
"It gives me goose bumps," Bullinger said. "So many emotions — you cried and you laughed. It's just wonderful. I haven't quit smiling," she said.
They agreed to take a DNA test. The results showed they are full siblings, meaning they share the same biological father as well.
Maixner's adoptive father passed away shortly before he got a call from the adoption agency. He spent Christmas with Bullinger, her husband and her adoptive parents.
His unlimited-calls cellphone plan came in handy after meeting his siblings.
"We talk every couple of days," he said.
Reunions happen, even when you think they wouldn't or couldn't. Two of the siblings actually were seeing each other in-person and didn't know their relation. What if they had started dating?
Here's Katie Kindelan of ABC News covering the same story.
When Handtmann told him about their other siblings and showed him Bullinger's picture, Maixner had his jaw-dropping moment when he recognized the Walmart employee.
Soon Maixner and Bullinger were making up for the lost time they spent as anonymous customer and employee.
"We exchanged phone numbers and went to Perkins and had coffee and got to know each other," Maixner said of his younger sister.
All five siblings - brother John Blankendall, in Tennessee, and Sandy Watkins, in California - met face-to-face for the first time in October.
"I walked in and I was just kind of speechless," Maixner said. "The conversation got going after a while, but we all just looked at each other and we all looked alike."
I'm glad they found each other.