Friends stay friends even if they do not reciprocate. At least, for me they do. It matters not that I have not heard from one or the other, let alone seen someone in months or years or decades. On sight of some old long lost friend there is a spark in my heart; this is someone I still care for! But the respective degrees of that care is highly relevant. To one I would give all my available money, to another none. One I would go rescue in some far flung country, another I would leave to their own devices. One I would not hesitate to invite into my house, another I prefer to meet at some impersonal venue. Seems for me that it is the degree of their reciprocity on which I am dependent; not an equivocal reciprocity, but an emotional one. There is a mercurial link that allows me to love another so deeply that my regard is unconditional, while many other friends are peripheral, temporary, and momentary, no matter how much I like them. And I have wrestled with guilt over my seeming fickleness. But there also has to be a boundary to how much of me I can share, for in my fields of operations I have met many thousands of 'friends' along the way.
Naturally, acquaintances and friends and colleagues and family and even strangers all are differentiated. Catching the eye of a stranger is sometimes to feel total accord. Real friends have a category that suggests intimacy beyond acquaintanceship. No student of mine can really be my friend until they are no longer under my supervisory care. Many a cast member in my career as a theatre director has befriended me, but, well, there is no longer a reason for them to contact me, I surmise. And so too for my colleagues in education. I do not reach out to all, nor they to me. Put to pasture as I am, I am an old horse who no longer pulls a cart, is not ridden, has no use, and cannot quite be made into glue. It is but my neighing across the fence that still may attract attention. Yet even so, there are precious few who acknowledge that I'm even here. But yes, it cuts both ways!
Yes, I know that reaching out to friends and writing to them and asking questions and involving them directly in your life is the way to keep the connection alive. I have such a friend in her 90's who writes me from an ocean away almost daily, and another my age, who writes almost daily too, whom I have known longer than any other friend, for we were boys together. And some of my friends write infrequently. And some write hardly at all. And I, like them, do the same. Our friendship is not questioned. Should occasion grant us time we will hug and share and be caring and be glad for each other's company. And then we'll move on. I shall go back to grazing in the valley of my aging. Some of them shall go on clambering the mountain tops. Such are degrees.
If you're reading this it is most likely because we 'still' know each other. And somewhere in our knowing there has been a degree of friendship shared. You and I and he and she are everything, I believe. We are ugly and beautiful and selfish and noble and everything all at once; it is the degrees of predominance in any one of us, however subtle, that differentiates. And evidently the more similar our tastes and interests the more ready we are to dance with each other, let alone graze side by side. When one likes people, loves the very soul in any human being, it is easy to be a friend; but to have reciprocity, ah, that is a magical thing. As Wyatt Earp said to Doc Holiday, "I like your cut." It has something more than the way a person dresses, than their physiognomy, their talent, or their education; it is something about their outlook on life that is commensurate with yours that most attracts one to another. In Holland's Theory, it simply is stated: birds of a feather!
I am an old horse. Yet my future is still before me. What I have yet to produce will bring me yet more acquaintances, more friends, and new people to love. And if you are still reading this it is not that you were once a friend, but that you still are. It is just that we may not much share much that is personal any more. But should I see you, the love for you will still pour from my eyes. You?