TUPELO – Dan Robins’ 18th birthday has been a long time coming, and he’ll turn 21 in another 12 years.
Astute calendar watchers know the math checks out, because Robins is a Leap Year baby born on Feb. 29, 1944.
“Sometimes, you had people who said, ‘Hey, this isn’t really your birthday,’” the Tupelo resident said. “Most of it was disbelief that you were born on the 29th because it doesn’t happen very often.”
Of course, Robins isn’t really a young man of 18 ready to vote for the first time. He’s a distinguished man of 72. His parents made sure to keep count every year.
“When I was young, it was always celebrated on the last day of the month, Feb. 28,” he said, “but it was kind of a bigger deal when it was actually on the 29th.”
Some might think Robins’ parents were jumping the gun by a day, since March 1, 2017, will be the actual one-year anniversary of Feb. 29, 2016, but they had good reason for sticking with February.
“I was born at 1:10 in the morning. My parents tried to get the hospital to move it back, but they wouldn’t do it,” he said. “My parents always said, ‘You were born on the last day of February, no matter what. That’s when we celebrate it.’”
Robins’ dad told him five kids were born on Leap Day in his hometown, though three of them died.
“I’ve probably met 7, maybe 8, other people that have been born on Leap Year since then,” he said.
The others might be able to understand some of the minor hassles Robins has endured over the years. For a time, government computers refused to recognize Feb. 29 as a legitimate day, so his driver’s license listed him as being born on Feb. 28.
That problem’s been fixed, which came in handy recently. One of his grandson’s teachers is expecting a baby, and the doctor said the due date was Leap Day.
“I said, ‘That’s my birthday.’ She said, ‘You weren’t born on the 29th,’” Robins said. “I had to pull out my license and prove it to her.”
He sometimes encounters kids who’ve never heard of Leap Year, so he explains the concept to them.
“I say, ‘A year is 365 and one-fourth days, so every four years, we have an extra day, and it is Feb. 29,’” Robins said. “They say, ‘Why is it Feb. 29?’ I answer, ‘I don’t know. It was selected.’ One little girl said, ‘Does this mean we have an extra day of school?’ I said, ‘It might.’”
While his Leap Day birthdays are usually special, one particular Feb. 28 stands out above the others.
“I was in Desert Storm when it ended on Feb. 28,” said Robins, who spent 26 years in the Army Reserve. “That was a good birthday in the desert.”
He plans to spend his 18th and/or 72nd birthday with his wife Anne and his grandchildren, Cooper and Mary Cullen. It’ll be a fine day, he said, no matter what happens.
“It starts to mean more, OK? When you get to be my age – I’m 72 – so the next one will be 76,” he said, “and there are no guarantees.”