Fast forward 17 ½ years...
The Class of 2002 was the banner that hung over the stage. John Roderick Gage Jr.'s name was announced and a very handsome, tall, man with a familiar crooked grin, proudly walked across the stage and accepted his diploma. Among the specially asked group of ten people was his dad, his Uncle and Aunt, cousins and good friends Kel and Dixie Brackett. In a few hours, along with his friends and family, they would have a huge party at his family's ranch.
Captain John R Gage had retired from the fire department a year earlier. Well, he was semi-retired because he was a well-known and respected horse breeder, trainer and consultant to the Olympic committee on Equestrian riding. But for now he was a very proud father as he watched his son accept his diploma.
Later that evening, after the presents were opened and the cake eaten, tapping his glass Johnny stood up and with a voice full of emotion began, "Seventeen or so odd years ago I opened my door to a new life." Focusing on his son, "one that has filled mine with happiness from the start. We have had our ups and downs as most families do but with the support of good friends," as he looked at all of them, "we have survived and I am so proud of you son." And with that he raised his glass. JJ stood up and after clearing his throat a few times he looked over to his dad and Uncle. With a crooked grin and a sparkle in his eye, "I am so honored to have all of you here on this special occasion and I have made a decision that I know some of you will be happy to hear. Sorry Mr. Bracket, that is to become a paramedic. I am enrolled at the college and I start next week!" With tears in both their eyes Johnny and Roy both stood up and embraced JJ; to huge applause.
JJ and his girlfriend Emily Woo walked out onto the back porch. "Hey guys, we're about to head over to Disneyland for Grad Nite."
Sitting around were Roy, Joann and his dad. "Well son, how about if I drive you guys over and pick you all up in the morning? Then we can grab breakfast."
To which Johnny received, "Dad...DAD! I was coming to get you all to see if you want pictures. We all went in and rented a limo so it will pick us up and drop us off. You don't hafta worry okay?"
As all the kids loaded into the limo Johnny was asking JJ, "you have enough money? Are you guys gonna be safe in there. I don't see any seat-belts. Roy there's no seat-belts."
Roy reached in and pulled Johnny out of the limo and shut the door. Shaking his head and laughing, "Johnny let them get going! You're worse than a mother hen!"
He then turned his attention back to the kids. "JJ, go have fun! We love you!" Roy put his arm around his best friend, as they headed back into the house.
Three years later...
On a bright summer morning Retired John Roderick Gage along with his best friend Roy Desoto, walked into Department Headquarters along with John R Gage Jr. JJ had just completed a 2 year course in Para-medicine and EMT/P Certification also known as a Fire/Medic Certificate and Fire Technology* at the top of his class. John Roderick Gage Jr. walked into the Los Angeles County Fire Department headquarters to find out what station he would be working out of. Battalion chief Hank Stanley greeted him and proudly informed him that out of 800 applicants he was chosen to work at Station 51 under Captain Mike Stoker. Roy and Johnny had grins that would have broken their faces. Battalion Chief Hank Stanley smiled and then said just loud enough for all of them to hear; especially his dad.
"Son, I can't tell your dad any more to cut his hair but in the words of Chief Houts, 'Son, you're going to have to get that hair of yours cut.'"
*Disposal diapers were still expensive and a luxury in the early 80s
*DNA testing was not used to determine paternity until 1988
*Information on EMT/Paramedic training and becoming a Fire/Medic was obtained through firefighter_applicants_frequently