I've Always Called Him 'Grandpa'

Find out who Kate Snow is thankful for, then share your story with "GMA."

Nov. 23, 2008 — -- Read Kate's story below, then use the comment section at the bottom of the page to tell "GMA" whom you are most thankful for this holiday season.

Roger Pershing Snow was born in 1918. Some call him Roger, or Persh, or R.P. I've always called him Grandpa.

And Grandpa is a storyteller.

My entire life, he has always woven these fantastic tales. Hunting and fishing were recurring themes.

"That moose there was so big," Grandpa says pointing to an old photo in which he's hoisting antlers in the air, "I had to dress it out and then we had to haul it out by horseback, piece by piece."

But most of the best stories were about adventures and misadventures -- flying his planes around rural Minnesota, teaching my grandmother to drive back in Sleepy Eye (she may or may not have put a hole in the garage door once), or taking the horses on a trail ride in South Dakota.

The Snows owned chicken hatcheries throughout Minnesota and grandpa retired young. He's had a lot of time for adventures.

My father compares the stories to the ones in the movie "Big Fish." They were always so vivid and over-the-top.

Now I have a confession.

Sometimes Grandpa's stories went on a little long. As kids, my brother and sister and I would sometimes take turns sitting in the family room with Grandpa, doing duty. If Barb or Josh walked in then -- tag, they were it. And I'd leave.

Funny how now, all these years later, I'd give anything to sit for hours in that room.

Earlier this year, Grandpa had to move from a home he owned into a Sunrise Assisted Living Community.

Like a lot of 90-year-olds, he's losing his memory. He struggles to remember the last hour, last week, last year. It's what doctors call dementia, probably the earliest stages of Alzheimer's disease.

When I visited him last week at his new home, he proudly showed me his room.

By the doorway there's a shadow box with some photos of his family in it. I had to point out my children in those photos and remind him what their names are.

But what's incredible is that -- for now, anyway -- even if he can't remember what he did this morning, he can name every player on his old high school basketball team. And he'll tell you a story that will make you believe they invented the passing game.

"That's me with my Model T Ford," he beamed when I showed him a photo dated 1938. "Oh, and that is a long time ago."

And then he told a Snow family classic -- the one story that we all remember. Who could forget? Grandpa's old friend Bill Radl challenged him to water-ski out on the lake, while wearing a full suit.

"I took my, just my jacket off, and my shoes. That was it. I had my shirt, billfold in my pocket, everything," Grandpa recalled.

"Anyway, he took me around and when he got around, once around, and almost back to the dock ... I said, 'OK, that's it, I'm going in.' He said, 'Nope,' and with that, he shut the throttle down. I said, 'No, no, no, no, no!' and I went all the way down up to my chin, with all my clothes on.

"Now, that wouldn't be so bad, I mean, so what, you can send 'em to the cleaners and everything. But then my wife called him and I was taking a shower and he came out to see ... I had in my back pocket, not only money of my own but also from one of the hatcheries and here I had put up a string across my bedroom, and all this money was hanging there ... to dry. They were all wet."

Grandpa was kind of a big shot in that small town. He used to fly airplanes and buzz the roof of the farmhouse to let my grandma know it was time to go pick him up at the airport.

"We never had any problems, except for one thing," Grandpa said. "The game warden found out about it and came out and sat. And unbeknown to us. And then he'd come back with an arrest (warrant) for me."

Roger's children -- my father Dean Snow and two aunts Mary Snow and Debby Gustafson -- all say they remember the plane buzzing the house, but they don't remember that part about the game warden and the threat of arrest.

But so what? If his stories are mostly true, isn't that enough?

"They may have been ... gone a little bit farther than what you should or whatever. But they were all half-truths or more," Grandpa confessed this week.

He'd stretch the truth a little, he said, "to keep their interest."

"I've had more fun than any 10 people put together. I still enjoy it. I still do," Grandpa said, sitting next to me in a rocking chair out on the front porch of Sunrise the other day. He says that all the time.

And he sure does enjoy life. At 90, he's the best dancer in the place.

What I enjoy and have for years are his stories.

And for that, I give my deepest thanks.

Now that you've heard Kate's story, "Good Morning America" wants to hear yours. Out of everyone in your life, we want to know who you are most thankful for this holiday season.

Please use the comment section at the bottom of the page to share your story with us.