Deanna Shrodes, who was adopted as a baby, was building a family in Florida while at the same time trying to learn about her own origins. After years of searching, she met her biological mother, who died before revealing the identity of her biological father.
Shrodes was determined to get answers about her dad – and answered his prayers in the process.
Shrodes found her biological mother, Sally King, when she was 27. But King wasn't open to meeting her – at first. "And then I went and met her personally," Shrodes said. "I just showed up, knocked on the door."
They ended up having a relationship for 20 years, until King died. When she did, she took a secret with her to the grave: the name of Shrodes' biological father. King didn't want to tell Shrodes his name.
Shrodes had no idea her mother had been sick and that "there was cancer brewing." She died in August 2019, a few months after her diagnosis.
The story almost ended there, but King did tell Shrodes two important things about her dad: he was Greek and from Richmond, Virginia. So she set out creating a private Facebook group, gathering a group of friends and volunteers who would help her search for him. She signed up with multiple DNA registries, hoping science would lead her to her father.
After ten years of searching, Shrodes, an ordained minister, turned to her higher power for help and prayed, a lot.
"I told my husband, I told my best friend Laura … I said, 'Listen, guys, you might think I'm crazy, but I was in prayer. God spoke this to me: Your father's name is Gus.'"
Sure enough, in May of this year after nearly a lifetime of wondering, her prayers were answered. There was a DNA match – to a cousin she never knew she had.
"I reached out to this cousin and I said, 'We've just matched on 23andMe'. … And he said, 'I think you're my Uncle Gus' daughter.' And I said, 'I think that, too.'"
His name is Gus Nicholas, 92 years old. He lived in Richmond all his life and was a bachelor who never married. He was a retired ballroom dance instructor.
"I prepared myself to find a grave, and I now found a person, and it was just absolutely mind-blowing," Shrodes said. "Couldn't believe that I had found a person."
Shrodes called him the very next day.
"My heart was beating out of my chest," she said. "I was like, 'What is this going to be like?' And is he going to accept me? Is he going to want to see me?"
But he was so excited to be found, according to Shrodes.
"He said, 'I woke up this morning and I was alone. … And now this afternoon, I have a daughter. I have a son-in-law. I have three grandchildren. I have great-grandchildren. …I 'm not alone in the world anymore.'"
"And I said, 'No, you're not. You're not.'"
Within a week, Shrodes was at Gus Nicholas' bedside.
As it turns out, just four months before they met, Nicholas fell at home. He was found lying on the floor and could no longer care for himself.
The state had placed him in a nursing home – and that is where they first met.
"Gus would say to me … 'Please don't let me die in here. Don't let me die in here.' And I said, 'You know what? I'm going to make sure.'"
They are father and daughter, but still strangers – which makes what happened next absolutely remarkable: Shrodes asked him to live with her.
And so, 56 years after she was adopted – and 75 short days after she first called her dad – Shrodes and her husband, pastor Larry Shrodes, took Nicholas out of the nursing home and brought him to their home outside Tampa, Florida.
Shrodes' guest room is now his bedroom. There are mementos that he asked her to bring from his Richmond home, like his trophies, dancing shoes, favorite hat and a picture from the good ol' days.
Shrodes and her husband now provide for him full-time. She cooks his meals – Greek, he prefers – and feeds them to him.
Shrodes is prepared to give back to the man who gave her life, until the end of his. She has asked only one thing of him: Will you tell me all about you?
She said it's the most worthwhile thing she has ever done.
"It's the hardest thing. It's the most worthwhile thing. It's the most incredible miracle I've ever had the privilege to live out," she said. "I'm living the dream."
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