SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ The party was going well. The drinks were flowing. The fajitas were delicious. Then Kevin Sampson saw his older brother do "the pancake dance." It was ridiculous. It was hilarious. Sampson knew he had found his family.
Until this past weekend, Sampson, 23, wondered what his birth family was like, if they missed him and how they were. With a reunion celebration that went until 3 a.m. Sunday, he got his answers. Surrounded by his four siblings, their children, his mother and an uncle, he has not stopped laughing or smiling since.
"Just from being with them, so many questions are answered without even asking," he said.
When he was 1, Sampson's mother put him up for adoption. At the time, she and her four children were living in a battered women's shelter in San Antonio.
"It was the best thing to do," his mother, Rebecca Hernandez, said Sunday after the reunion. "The director said they were going to take good care of him."
Hernandez said she had her hands full with Sampson's three older siblings. She knew her youngest, Kevin, would have a better and safer life with another family.
Sampson's new parents raised him in Spring, outside Houston. They never hid the fact he was adopted, and when he was ready, his father said he would do whatever he could to help find Sampson's mother. Sampson knew the story of the shelter, and whenever he visited San Antonio, he would look around the grocery stores for anyone who looked liked him.
"There was not a day that went by that I did not think about my family," he said.
Sampson's older brother Robert Gonzalez, 24, felt the same way. When he was 16, his mother told him he had a brother who was a year younger and adopted by a family she believed had the name Sampson. He probably lived somewhere near Houston and was born March 7. That was all she knew. Gonzalez promised his mother he would find their missing family member.
At 19, Gonzalez paid a lawyer $350 to search court adoption records for his brother. But because Sampson was still under 18, the judge would not release any information, Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez then turned to the Web. For four years he habitually entered "Kevin Sampson" into Google and search engines dedicated to finding people.
Sampson's absences felt like a void in the close-knit family. They would talk about him on his birthday. He was missing weddings and the births of his nephews and nieces. His mother would cry at the thought of it.
Then, while Robert Gonzalez was perusing the hundreds of Kevin Sampsons on MySpace on March 15, his wife made him stop.
Sampson had posted a picture of the back of his neck as the intro picture for his page.
The neck was identical to Gonzalez's.
The page's backdrop was all drinking ads. Sampson listed his astrological sign as Pisces, which fit the March 7 birthday. He lived near Houston. There was a story posted about a little boy being adopted. Gonzalez said his jaw dropped.
Gonzalez sent an e-mail. The more he read on Sampson's page, the more confident he was that he had found his brother. He sent two more e-mails the same day when Gonzales did not respond. He e-mailed the friends Sampson listed on his profile and asked them to tell Sampson to send him an e-mail. He requested that Sampson add him to his friends list.
Sampson replied to the request that afternoon: "Do I know you?"
Then he read the other e-mails.
"I was crying like a little girl and everything," Sampson said.
More e-mails went back and forth. Then phone calls. Their sister Gigi Gonzalez, who was born after Sampson, started to pester her new brother with text messages and leave notes on his profile. Sampson's co-workers at CVS Pharmacy told him he was going to run up his family's phone bill before he even met them.
"I told them it did not matter," he said.
Sampson told his boss he would not be working his weekend shift. He was going to see his family.
"And don't think you are going to stay in a hotel," Robert Gonzalez told his younger brother. They were family. He was going to stay in their house.
Sampson always wondered where his humor and wild streak came from. His adoptive parents were restrained and kept to themselves. But Sampson's nickname was "smiley," and he loved to make people laugh. In school he somehow always ended up in the principal's office.
Watching his older brother do a half squat while slowly turning and chanting, "I want a pancake, I want a pancake" to the squeals of laughter from family and friends, it was obvious.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.