By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
It took more than two decades for the siblings to meet.
Thanks to MySpace, 32-year-old Malinda 'Mindy' Mungia of Temple was able to locate her half-brother, 27-year-old Daniel Tamez.
The ironic part is the they live within 15 miles of each other. Daniel's home is in Academy.
'It's funny how we were so close and didn't know it,' Mindy said. 'It's been so long that I've been looking for him, and I can't believe that he was around the corner.'
She found her brother via MySpace on March 12 with the help of her stepdaughter, Cecilia Mungia of Temple. 'Cecilia did a friend search for 'Daniel Tamez.' It brought up a match for a man living in Academy,' Mindy said. 'So she sent him a message that said, 'Are you the son of Raymond Tamez and Juanita PeÃ±a? My stepmom - your sister, Mindy Tamez - is looking for you and would like to meet you.''
Cecilia and Mindy got a response that night.
'I was surprised and shocked when I got that MySpace message,' Daniel said. 'I was about to give up hope in finding her.'
In his reply email, Daniel confirmed his parentage and said he couldn't believe he was blocks away from his half-sister.
'So we exchanged numbers, and that first night, I talked to him all night,' Mindy said.
Mindy's husband, Michael Mungia, said as he watched his wife on the phone, she was teary-eyed and trembling with excitement.
'You could tell by the way she was talking that there was emotion and energy in everything they were talking about,' Michael said. 'In a way, it was like Christmas.'
He tried to stay with her as she talked, but the conversation seemed like it would never end.
'I wanted to be there for her, you know, to comfort her if she needed it,' Michael said. 'But it got to be midnight, and I had to be up to drive the school bus the next morning. I had to get some sleep.'
After about four hours of talking on March 12, Mindy and Daniel hung up. But they talked some more the next day and by March 14, they met each other.
'We met for dinner,' Mindy said. 'I was excited but nervous and didn't know what to think. I didn't know if he really wanted to meet me or if there would be resentment because of what happened with our parents.'
Michael nodded his head.
'My wife was a nervous wreck,' Michael said. 'You should have seen them two, sweating legs twitching. They both had watery eyes and skipped a breath when then they first laid eyes on each other.'
That initial meeting led to more talking. The pair had a lot to catch up on.
'We both knew that the other one existed and what the names were,' Mindy explained. 'We have the same dad (Raymond Tamez of Temple). He married Daniel's mom when I was a kid but they divorced when she was pregnant.'
Daniel said his father had no role in his childhood. Raymond said that's true, but it wasn't for the lack of trying. He said he attempted twice to file for custody of Daniel.
'But the custody battle didn't work,' Raymond said. 'His mother had gone out of the country and was in Mexico. So time went on, and I gave up. I never knew anything about him being back in the area.'
Before settling in Academy, Daniel and his mother lived in several places from Mexico to Illinois. He lived in Academy long enough graduate from the local high school.
'I knew my dad's name, but that was about it,' Daniel said. 'For whatever reason, it was a total split between him and my mom.'
So Daniel and Mindy grew up knowing they had a half-sibling somewhere out there but had no idea how to find each other.
'I've been looking since I was a teenager,' Mindy said. 'It wasn't until my sister (the late Stella Tamez Aleman of Temple) died that I really got serious about it. Life is precious and short, and I didn't want any more time to go by without me finding my brother.' (Mrs. Aleman is also the daughter of Raymond Tamez. She died of an illness.)
So she tried contacting the staff of 'Locator' - a reality TV show that splotlights the reconnection of family members who were separated by adoption or divorce. It airs weekly on the WE cable channel.
'That didn't really work,' Minday said. 'I was beginning to get disappointed when my stepdaughter was like 'Have you tried MySpace?''
And that was what worked.
Since their first meeting on March 14, Mindy and Daniel seeing each other on a regular basis, and they've done nothing but marvel at how much they have in common.
'Both of our eyes are brown,' Daniel said. 'Our foreheads have the same shape.'
'And,' Mindy interjected, 'Were's both antsy with our hands. We tap our fingers, wad up napkins, stuff like that you know, don't like to sit still.'
Mindy's husband laughed.
'It's so cute,' Michael said. 'Every time they see something they have in common, they giggle.'
And what about Dad?
'He didn't know I was looking for Daniel, and he didn't know I found him,' Mindy said. 'I was too nervous. I didn't know if he'd be upset.'
Her secret slipped within a week of Daniel and Mindy's first dinner together.
'I was talking to my stepmother, talking about how stressed and excited I was,' Mindy said. 'She asked me what was going on, and I told her.'
Not long after that conversation was over, her father called her.
'Dad's call was like, 'What's going on? You found Daniel? He wants to meet me?' And that's when I told him everything,'' Mindy said.
Raymond Tamez said he was surprised and speechless.
'I had no idea Daniel was looking for me or wanted anything to do with me,' Raymond said.
And that's how Daniel felt about his father.
'I'd never met him,' Daniel said. 'I didn't know what he looks like. I figured he didn't want to know me.'
But the father and son faced the fear they had in common. They met each other March 20 at a dinner party Mindy hosted.
'It went great. My Dad was really, really nervous,' Mindy said. 'He told us to let him stand by the sofa in case he had a heart attack. Daniel was nervous too. They both thought each other didn't care. But it turned out great.'
'I feel a lot better. It was what I wanted,' Daniel said. 'Knowing my father, it gives me closure.'
Raymond said it was a special moment.
'I didn't think it would ever happen, but I'm glad I did it,' Raymond said. 'The only thing is that I feel regret. I am sad I did not try harder when he was a child.'
Future family get-togethers are planned.
'Daniel and I wanted this,' Mindy said. 'We're getting the chance to be a family.'