Del & Sue, Allen, TX — Married 1953

Del and Sue Justice live in Allen, TX, a northern suburb of Dallas, about 25 miles from the small town of Van Alstyne, where they met as children.  They both grew up in strict Christian homes, began dating during their sophomore year of high school, and married after Del's first year of college.  Right after they were wed, Del went to serve in Korea for 14 months, while Sue lived with her parents and worked in a drug store — a job she held for 12 years.

Retired from the insurance business, Del now happily works in customer relations at a local Cadillac dealer.  During our interview, held 2 days before his 70th birthday, Del shared with me the fact that he had been diagnosed with lymphoma and leukemia.  Both he and Sue spoke with me about how this news has (and hasn't) affected their lives.

They have no children.


Sue:
I didn’t care for Del.  He was dating someone else at that time, and I can remember in our English class, he would just really pester me.  I’d think, "hey, I wish you’d leave me alone."  Finally, I think my brother-in-law says to him, "hey.  I think you can get a date with that gal right there if you’ll play your cards right."  So, we had a little family wiener-roast-type thing, down at my parents’; and I guess that was our first little date.  I learned to like him, and then I learned to love him.  Which I still do.

Del was raised up by a very dedicated Christian mother.  And he was respected, and I thought, well, "hey."  I was raised in a Christian home, and I knew that my Mom would be very picky about who I dated.  So I thought, "hey, this’ll be a pretty good shot to start."  He was a nice guy, and basically when we did start dating, we just enjoyed each other so much that, like he said, four years we went steady.

Del:
As seniors in high school, I knew this was what I wanted, and I think there wasn’t any question but what Sue knew that as well.  As I told you, I went to school at Oklahoma City, and back in those days I didn’t have a vehicle—a 200-mile, one way trip—and it was three different highways, so you had to get at least three different rides if you were gonna make this trip.  I’d come home almost every weekend the entire school year ‘cause I just couldn’t stay away from her.

RF:
Were the other people in your class getting married at that time?

Del:
I would think
some were, but most did not get married as young as we did.  But don’t be misled by that.  Let me get into a sort of a moral situation here.  Even though we went steady four years, the first time we were ever in bed together was our wedding night.  Now, that, back in those days, much differently than it is today, of course.  But as Sue mentioned earlier, I was raised in a Pentecostal church, and my mom was a very strong Christian person.  My dad did not attend church, but was a very strong disciplinarian and when they said "you do this," or "you don’t do that," that’s the way I did it.  And so many things were a sin, or so many things were wrong, particularly from a Pentecostal standpoint, more so than a lot of other religions.  So there were certain things you couldn’t do, and one of ‘em, you just didn’t have sex until you got married, and so we did not.

RF:
Was there peer pressure about that?

Sue:
Not like the kids have today, no.  Really, I could say there was
no peer pressure, wouldn’t you say so, Del?

Del:
No; it was understood.  They knew how strong.  I’ve always been—and Sue has too, but particularly me—I’ve always been a very strong-willed person.  And it doesn’t make me any difference what somebody else is doing, or what somebody else thinks, as long as
I think it’s right, I will either do it or not do it depending on my upbringing and what I think is right.

RF:
What did it mean to you to be married at that time?  How did you define a marriage, and has that changed in 50 years?

Del:
Everything changes. But the purpose, the intent, the thought hasn’t changed.  We went into marriage, both of us, never questioning that it was going to last.  There just wasn’t a question.  Back in those days, if you got a divorce, particularly a woman, was sort of an outcast.  That was never a consideration, never has
been a consideration for us.

So we just entered this thing; this is just the way it’s going to be, and the Lord has just blessed us and given us all these many years, and there never was any question about whether we’re gonna be married, and once we were married we were going to stay married.  There’s just never been anybody else.  I went to Korea, as I told you, went into the service shortly after we were married, and went to Korea, was gone fourteen months.  And I would say, wow—ninety, ninety-five percent of the guys over there were seeing someone while they were there; I never was unfaithful, never been unfaithful to Sue in my life.  That’s just the way we do things.

Sue:
And all the time he was gone, I wrote him every day, and he wrote me every day.  Wasn’t always a lengthy letter, but it was a letter.  Letter from home.

RF:
How do you define a marriage?

Del:
Well,
my definition is, I don't think it's a 50/50 proposition.  My definition is, it's a 100/100 proposition.  In our case, each of us--and I know Sue will tell you this same thing--each of us has always been more concerned about the feelings of the other one than we have about the feelings for ourself.

Sue:
That's right.

Del:
And I think that's really been a key to the successful marriage we've had.  I want her to be happy, I'm more concerned that she's happy, or that she's doing what she wants, you know, and she feels exactly the same way.  Neither of us are selfish in any respect, when it comes to that.  And I think that's been a real key.


Del:
If I told you that we’d never had some words, that would not be true, so I’m not going to tell you that, but wow, so minor.  What we’ve had have been so minor.
  And I don’t guess I’ve ever left for work a day in my life without kissing her, the last thing as I leave, and telling her I love her.  I’ve never arrived back home at the end of the day without doing exactly the same thing.  And it’s not just because it’s the thing to do; I tell her I love her because I love her.  And our love is as strong right now as it’s ever been.

Sue:
And I think we show our appreciation for each other.  Like if, well, Del might just do a little something that I’ve asked him, and I never fail to thank him.  I mean, a lot of spouses take that for granted; "hey, that’s your job."  But I always make a point to thank him for something that I might ask him to help me do, or if he does something that I really appreciate.  So I think appreciation, and respect, mean a lot.


RF:
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to face? And how did you face it?

Del:
About a year and a half ago I found out I had a malignancy, I have lymphoma and leukemia.  Sue will tell you this, the day I got the report back I came home, and she said, "well, how’d your doctor visit go?"  I said, "well, he says I’ve got leukemia and lymphoma."  That’s kind of the way I answered her.  And I have been, as the old saying goes, strong as horseradish through all of this.  I’ve probably got as much faith as anybody I’ve ever met.

When it comes my time to go, I know what God will do.  I know He will take me.  But He has blessed us through this year and a half.  Even though I’ve got a sickness.  I really wouldn’t know that I had a sickness if they didn’t tell me.  And I think largely because I’ve had such a positive attitude, and Sue’s had such a positive attitude.  We’re trying to prepare in every way we possibly can.  But you know, I go for days without even realizing or thinking that I have a malignancy.  I’m working full time, 40 hours a week, or about 37 and a half hours a week.  Happy-go-lucky, you wouldn’t know I was sick if they didn’t tell me, and so… that has been a challenge but we’ve handled that challenge, with God’s help, in such a way it’s been almost routine and easy.

RF:
Sue, you said you’re doing what you can to think about how you would handle being alone.

Sue:
Right.

RF:
I wonder what you can tell me about how you’re managing to do that.  What’s involved for you?

Sue:
Well, first of all, I would not probably keep this size house.  It would be too much for me to take care of because Del does the yard work.  I don’t really need this size house. 
And, oh, gosh.  He pays the bills, he takes care of all that.  So I’m needing to learn, or I’m beginning to learn to handle all the financial situations.

RF:
Particularly in a situation without children who would typically, I think, be the ones to help with that—

Sue:
Exactly.  And then we’re, even now, going through this, well, are we going to stay in this house?  Are we going to stay in Allen?  But as long as Del wants to work, I want him to work as long he wants to work, and as long as he feels like working.  But we haven’t made the big decision of where we would relocate, or what we would do in that situation.  My family lives pretty much 50-60 miles from here.  But, me being the youngest, I have to think about this, too:  you know, my oldest sister is 86, and she’s already alone.  My brother and I are the only ones that have spouses left.  So they’re all to an age that—and who knows, I might go before any of them—but are they going to be able to be there for me?  Of course they have children, but who says that nieces and nephews are going to be the one that’s gonna come by and take care of you?  So again, we’re just trusting the Lord, and faith, and wisdom that we’ll make the right decisions, you know, possibly in the near future, and it depends on how Del continues to feel.

Del:
We do know this for a fact, that the Lord won’t put more on us than we can bear.

Sue:
That’s right.

Del:
We know that.  So if she’s left alone?  Yeah, that would be the sad part for me.  I’m ready to go.  I don’t have any problem with that.  I know where I’m gonna be when I leave here… but the sad part would be the ones who are left behind.  So, yeah.  If I had my preference, I have said for many, many years, "I hope Sue goes before I go."  The reason I hope she goes before I do, so she won’t have to be sad.  Let me be the one to be sad.  And what God’s plan is for our life, we don’t know.

But we do know this:  that He won’t, as I’ve said, put more on us than we can bear.  We have a good friend down in East Texas, lives down on the lake.  Big ol’ Cajun boy.  We love him dearly, and he’s got a way of saying that, he says, "the Lord won’t put more on your wagon than you can haul."  And I think of that every time I say something along this line.  So, yeah, if we had our preference, we’d go outta here and the Lord would take us both at the same time.  If He chose.  But probably that won’t happen, and so one of us more than likely is gonna be left alone.  But we’ll be, I’ll be prepared mentally, and she’s working toward it.  (They laugh.)


Sue:
Just recently we celebrated our 50th anniversary, and I was telling someone that we were about to celebrate our 50th anniversary.  "And," I said, "we dated four years." She said, "so you all have been together 54 years."  I said, "no, ma’am.  We dated four years, and we’ve been married 50 years."  Basically, that’s pretty much the way I still feel about it.

RF:
That togetherness is from the wedding day forward?

Sue:
That’s exactly right.  That’s exactly right.

RF:
So you’re saying that togetherness is defined by, really, having made that step.  And that’s when togetherness truly is realized?

Sue:
Right.  Who says sex is the whole thing that you’re supposed to enjoy about a marriage?  So I think about all the fun times Del and I had for four years.  I’m not gonna set here and say that we weren’t tempted, that we didn’t have some desires to want to have sex.  But we felt very strongly that it was not right; and that was not the thing to do before we were married.

Del:
As I view marriage—and I told you early on in this conversation that I came from a very strict Pentecostal upbringing, and I hold those same values—and what I see for the future is… we’ve had years and years and years of people living together now, and outside of wedlock, and babies being born, and all of those kinds of things.  It hurts me.  It bothers me, I don’t think that’s pleasing to the Lord.  I don’t think that’s the way He intended it.  That’s just the way I view it.  And so as I look further down the road, I see a further deterioration of this kind of thing, even maybe to the point somewhere down the road—maybe 30, 40, 50, another 100 years—there won’t even be such a thing as marriage.

RF:
Do you see any upside to the changes that have taken place?

Del:
I haven’t seen an upside to it.  And I’d love to see an upside, but I think that now, when people run across an obstacle, or a challenge in their marriage nowadays, I think the general feeling is not to figure out how we’re going to overcome this, or that we should overcome this; this is a bump in the road.  This shouldn’t be the end of things.  This is just a bump.  And there are gonna be bumps.  And I think they should try to—instead of throwing in the towel, so to speak, when they hit that first bump in the road, as so many of them are doing nowadays—I think they need to sit down… obviously, there has to be compromise, there has to be understanding, there has to be love, there has to be care, there has to be concern… all of those things have to be ingredients in this.  But you oughta try to work these things out.

We didn’t used to have divorces.  Not like to any degree like we do now.  And so, I think there’s just a deterioration in this respect.  And instead of trying to work it out, they say, "why, I’m not going to put up with this.  I’ll just go get me somebody else."  And that’s just a sad indictment, I think, against our society.

RF:
You’re projecting that it may not exist, but do you think that the legal idea of marriage is still necessary?

Del:
(He stops and thinks.)  Necessary?  Well, I don’t know that it’s necessary, but I certainly think that’s the way God intends it to be.  I think it’s an ordinance, ordained by God, I think that’s pretty clear in the Bible, two become one; and I think he makes that very clear, or the Bible does, and yeah, I think it’s important to sign the paper and enter into this thing as, "this is a permanent arrangement.  Until death do us part, that’s the way it is."  So I haven’t compromised my thinking on that.  I know I’m in the minority nowadays.