By his own account, Larry Plieth has had "kind of a rough life," but the reunion must have made up for some of it.
For Mr. Plieth's mother, Jean DeVera, 69, of Gilroy, Calif., her son was the Mother's Day gift she has desired since she gave him up for adoption shortly after his birth 51 years ago.
Ms. DeVera ran away from her Oregon home with a young man when she was 16. Her parents brought her back and when Mr. Plieth was born, made her give the child up for adoption. Married three times after that, she never had another child.
Mother and son were reunited yesterday in a San Jose, Calif., hotel after Ms. DeVera located Mr. Plieth in Tioga, Pa., three months ago.
"I was so happy," she said.
Mr. Plieth dashed back and forth from Ms. DeVera to a group of newfound relatives, an uncle, two nieces and a nephew who live in the Bay Area, as his mother told of how she hunted for her lost son. "I began searching from the time I lost him. I began the search in a small way," she said. "I didn't have no help."
Mr. Plieth suddenly was beside her chair, pulling up his shirt to show a small faded birthmark that Ms. DeVera recalled as a strawberry red spot when her son was born.
Ms. DeVera said she joined Search Finders, a search and support group in San Jose for birth mothers and adopted children, about six years ago.
Mr. Plieth, who has two children and two grandchildren of his own, told of his first phone conversation with his mother after he got a call from the adoption service from which he was placed.
"When we first talked," Ms. DeVera explained, "He said, 'My cat's bigger than your cat.' " It turned out Mr. Plieth was talking about a 450-pound Siberian tiger at the wild animal park where he works as a caretaker.
Mr. Plieth was adopted by a family that lived on a ranch near Portland, Ore. He worked on the ranch, served briefly in the Navy and kicked around the Northwest at various odd jobs. "I had kind of a rough life. I worked carnivals and the whole works."
Mr. Plieth said he called his mother after he received a letter from her. "I had tears in my eyes talking to her," he said.