PORTLAND, Ore. -- On this Christmas day, a family is grateful to be spending their first Christmas together.
Three siblings spent the majority of their adult lives not knowing their two other siblings even existed.
“I think I opened the can,” said Philip Amato.
Amato was adopted at birth. He says he opened the can when he went looking for his biological family.
He said thanks to a relatively recent change in Oregon law allowing easier access to pre-adoption records, he got a hold of his original birth certificate. He also found his birth mother's obituary in a newspaper, and there he saw the names of three siblings.
In 2010, he decided to reach out.
“That didn't go easy,” he said.
After a few humps, Amato convinced Dianne Striefel and her two other siblings that he was their long-lost brother.
“For the last 20 years, Dianne and I have lived three miles apart,” said Amato.
Three miles, plus a lifetime, apart.
“Nobody knew. My mother died in 2004 and she took those secrets with her,” said Striefel.
“It just felt like now I had a full family,” she said.
Amato also found out there was another, younger sibling, who was also put up for adoption one year before him. In July, Amato was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. With the future uncertain, it became even more imperative they find the other sister they had never met. Striefel submitted a DNA sample to ancestry.com.
“I submitted the sample and that's the amazing miraculous part, she submitted the same week,” Striefel said.
It wasn't long until she received an email, which came on a very special day.
“It was on my birthday, August 28th,” said Amato.
Within a week or so, Amato, Striefel, and Nan Wonderly were connected.
“It feels like coming home. It's tremendous,” said Wonderly.
Now, after so many years apart the family is reunited, and celebrating their first Christmas together.
“Things happen for a reason, in their own time,” said Striefel.
“The first of many I hope,” Wonderly said.
There's more good news. Amato recently had surgery for his esophageal cancer and is recovering.
The family said they're sharing their story because they want others to know that, at least in Oregon, it's easier for adopted siblings and family to find each other.
Years ago, Wonderly said she had submitted her name to Oregon's Mutual Consent Registry, which allows information to be released if both parties sign up and give consent.