TUCSON, AZ - Retired astronaut Mark Kelly said that he and his wife Gabrielle Giffords may be returning to live in Tucson full time sooner than people would expect, but he did not give a specific timeline.
In an interview in Tucson with the Arizona Daily Star last week, Kelly said that his wife is getting better every day and has become chattier.
He said that Giffords wants nothing more than to get back to Tucson and hopes to return to some type of public-service work. The couple now live in the Houston area as Giffords undergoes therapy.
"At some point we'll transition back," Kelly said. "I'm not sure of the timeline, but it might be sooner than people would expect."
Giffords declined to talk to the Star.
Kelly continues to speak on his wife's behalf because she's still struggling with speech.
"Her biggest thing, you know, is just the transmission part," he said. "The receiving part seems to be 100 percent," Kelly said. "All that cognitive stuff seems to be 100 percent."
Except for briefly talking with Diane Sawyer of ABC News last year, Giffords has not given a public interview since she was shot in the head in an assassination attempt on Jan. 8, 2011. In public, her words have been limited to short phrases like, "thank you very much" and "fight, fight, fight."
She recited the Pledge of Allegiance at a Jan. 8 memorial event at the University of Arizona.
On June 9, she appeared onstage in front of 800 people at a "Get Out the Vote" concert to promote the June 12 special election to replace her, which her former staffer and fellow shooting survivor Ron Barber won.
Kelly told the crowd at the event that Giffords' decision to resign from Congress was "really difficult."
"She worked incredibly hard for such a long time to first be elected to Congress, and then to serve, and it was her lifelong dream," Kelly said as Giffords clasped hands with Barber. "For Gabby and I and members of the Giffords family, this is more than just an ordinary election. This is a little bit about closure. This is closure on Gabby's career in Congress."
With her longer, blonder hair, stronger body and steadier walk, Giffords is closer than she's ever been to resembling the congresswoman she was on the day she was shot.
She wears glasses instead of contact lenses and she walks with a limp. She also has limited use of her right arm and frequently wears a brace on it and on her right leg. She is now left-handed.
Kelly said that Giffords does miss being as active as she once was and that he hopes to get a custom bicycle that will accommodate the limitations of her right arm.
Unlike some patients with brain injuries, Kelly said that Giffords does not have problems with impulsivity or decision-making and is not distracted by noise.
The most encouraging part of Giffords' recovery is her spirit, he said.
"Very rarely does she get down about anything," he said. "She's not completely positive 100 percent of the time. Sometimes she'll get a little bummed out, but it usually lasts about five minutes."
As part of Giffords' and Kelly's visit to Tucson last week for Barber's campaign, the pair visited the grocery store where she and 18 others were shot, six fatally.
"She said, `Let's drive by' so we did. We didn't get out of the car, but we drove by and she took a look," Kelly said.
He did not speak about Giffords' reaction.
Giffords won't be at Barber's swearing-in in Washington, D.C., this week, as she'll be traveling to Kings Point, N.Y., where Kelly will deliver the commencement speech at his alma mater, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
Then the couple will return to Houston.
Later this summer, Giffords, Kelly and Kelly's daughters will take a European cruise.
Kelly said he's not sure Giffords will ever be able to return to politics, but he's fairly certain she will work in public service.
Giffords' mother spoke about her daughter's recovery, saying that she's not at all reticent about making her wishes known or getting her ideas across.
"If she seems to defer to Mark, she probably feels it would be quicker that way now," Gloria Giffords wrote in an email. "Certainly not that she doesn't have an opinion or is unaware of the issues."
Friends say that in smaller groups, Giffords carries on conversations and both asks and answers questions.
"Every day there is evidence of an increasing ability to verbally communicate more succinctly," Gloria Giffords wrote. "It's coming!"
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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