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Published 11/02/2009 at 11:47pm  |  Views: 4739
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by Tara Hagan
Original Article

Kim Hinchberger always wondered about the siblings she'd never met.

But the Sarnia, Ontario, Canada resident, who was adopted at a young age, never imaged she'd find them right under her nose.

Enter Mike McCormack, 54-year-old Sarnia resident. Hinchberger has been cutting his hair at JT's Hair Studio for the past 12 years.

"When I first met Kim I was stunned at how much she looked like my mother," said McCormack. "It blew me away ... but I never mentioned it to her."

For more than a decade, the pair shared the odd chat here and there. Then in January, while Hinchberger cut his hair, McCormack reveal ed some startling information about his past.

"I said something one day about my brother, two sisters and I being raised by our grandparents," said McCormack.

The remark struck Hinchberger, who, having seen her adoption documents from the Children's Aid Society, knew she had four siblings -- two brothers and two sisters -- who were raised by their grandparents.

"Then he said his grandfather had worked for Canadian Oil," said Hinchberger. "As soon as he said that, bells rang. I knew my grandfather was an oil operator."

And the more McCormack talked about his past that day -- his grandmother's work as a Bell switchboard operator, his mother's job as a hairdresser -- the deeper Hinchberger's throat tightened.

The parallels were frightening. She had known all these things about her family.

"I freaked out -- I was trying not to shake while I was cutting his hair," said Hinchberger, who had to escape to the back of the shop to compose herself. "I said to my co-worker, 'I think that's my brother out there.'"

Hinchberger didn't say a word to McCormack. According to her adoption papers, her four older siblings never knew she existed.

Her birth mother -- a young, single, working parent at the time -- was simply unable to raise a fifth child. She, along with her parents, decided it was best to give the baby up for adoption. The secret was kept between the three of them.

Meanwhile, Hinchberger spent the next three months waiting for McCormack to come back to the shop -- wondering what to say. She did more research, and concluded that this was, in fact, her family.

"I did a lot of soul searching," she said.

Hinchberger had never felt a void in her life. She was raised by two wonderful parents, she said, along with a sister, and daughter of her own.

She wondered if she should say anything at all.

"I know these things can potentially hurt people," she said. "But, it's almost like it's fate. And to have that handed to you, it's hard not to say anything."

In May McCormack returned to the shop, sat down, and looked at Hinchberger's pale, nervous face.

"What's up?" he asked.

"I think I'm your sister," she replied.

McCormack was shocked. "I didn't know what to think," he said.

Then, Hinchberger began to explain; she showed him the documents, which described him, his siblings, his mother and grandparents, in detail.

"I broke down each time I read it," said McCormack.

He went home and called his sister, Kathy Nicholson.

"He could hardly get the words out," she said. "We were shocked."

Word quickly spread to the other siblings, Kevin McCormack and Angie Hills.

When McCormack finally introduced Hinchberger to the family, he was shocked by the similarities.

"They have the same eyes, the same mannerisms," he said of his three sisters. "And their favourite food is chocolate covered cherries.

"It's like they're so familiar with Kim, yet, she grew up with a different family."

The adjustment, though overwhelming, was worth it, said Nicholson.

"I've lived 50 years having one sister, and to get used to saying I have two -- it's bizarre now," she said. "But I couldn't have hand-picked a better sister."

As it turns out, the startling discovery actually turned out to be a lifesaver.

"It's been such a gift to us," said Hills, noting that the group had grown apart over the years. "She brought as all back together."

The group is now closer than ever, said Hills, noting long phone calls, and family functions.

"I believe this happened for a reason," said Nicholson. "We feel so blessed."

Hinchberger -- who now has several nieces and nephews -- attended two weddings this summer with her new family.

"It just seems so natural for everyone to be together," said McCormack, who still goes to Hinchberger for haircuts -- now with a little more to talk about. "It's like she's always been there."