Expect to see former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords living back in Tucson, possibly in the not-too-distant future.
And she'll most likely be going back to work here, too, said her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly. The couple currently live in Houston.
"I'm not from Houston, I'm from New Jersey," Kelly said in an interview last week at Bentley's, one of his wife's favorite Tucson coffee spots. "Gabby is third generation from here. There's nothing she wants more than to get back here. At some point we'll transition back. I'm not sure of the timeline, but it might be sooner than people would expect."
Kelly continues to speak for his 42-year-old wife, who struggles with speech. She was not giving interviews last week.
"Her biggest thing, you know, is just the transmission part. The receiving part seems to be 100 percent," Kelly said. "All that cognitive stuff seems to be 100 percent."
With the exception of 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 University of Arizona Jan. 8 memorial event earlier this year.
On June 9, she appeared onstage in front of 800 people at the "Get Out the Vote" concert at the Rialto Theatre to promote the June 12 special election, which her former staffer Ron Barber won. Kelly spoke for Giffords at the concert, telling attendees that Barber's election to Giffords' Congressional District 8 seat would mark a significant ending for his wife. Giffords smiled, pumped her fist, waved and thanked supporters. Her voice was loud, clear and confident, but she limited her words to, "Thank you very much."
"When she made this decision to resign from Congress and focus on her rehab, it was a really difficult decision. 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 told the crowd as Giffords clasped hands with Barber during the concert. "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."
In an interview, Kelly clarified his remarks.
"When she decided to resign, she wanted Ron to run," he said. "So what I mean was kind of closure of the whole resignation process."
While he's not sure whether Giffords' future will be in an elected office, he is fairly certain it will be in public service.
"Gabby has always been about public service," he said.
With her longer, blonder hair, stronger body and more steady walk, Giffords is closer than she's ever been to resembling the vibrant, extroverted 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.
By far the biggest change, though, is her public silence.
Prior to the shooting, speaking was one of Giffords' strengths. People would joke that she lived up to her nickname, "Gabby." She typically spoke more than her husband. Now, the roles are reversed.
"She's getting better all the time. You know, I could see a difference in her in the last week," Kelly said. "Just the accuracy, frequency of what she's saying and how chatty she is."
Giffords' recovery so far has surpassed the odds. More than 90 percent of people who are shot in the head do not survive. Those close to her say Giffords' progress since initially surviving the shooting has been similarly impressive.
"When I ask her about anything and she answers, I think, OK, what would she have said to this situation two years ago? And it's the same," Kelly said.
And she's not at all reticent about making her wishes known or getting her ideas across, says her mother, Gloria Giffords.
"If she seems to defer to Mark, she probably feels it would be quicker that way now," Gloria 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. She was at The Shanty, a Fourth Avenue watering hole, last week, talking with former staff members.
"Every day there is evidence of an increasing ability to verbally communicate more succinctly," Gloria Giffords wrote. "It's coming!"
When he thinks back to the days after Jan. 8, 2011, when Giffords was hospitalized in Tucson, Kelly says he's impressed by what was then speculation about his wife's future by staff at the University of Arizona Medical Center.
"When she was in the ICU here I was talking to the residents. Based on the trajectory (of the bullet) and the CT scans, they called it pretty well," Kelly said. "They said she'll be able to walk, she'll be able to speak, but they didn't know about her right arm."
Her right side is still affected by paralysis, particularly her right arm. She is now left-handed, Kelly said. She wears a brace on both her leg and arm. The leg brace fits best in running shoes, which is why that's now her footwear of choice, he said.
"She walks slower than, you know, what would be a normal pace. Her gait is a little different," Kelly said. "She can actually run a little bit."
An athletic person, Giffords does miss being as active as she once was, he said. She's able to ride a stationary bicycle at the gym, and he hopes to get a custom bicycle that will accommodate the limitations of her right arm.
She can do most things on her own, Kelly said, but sometimes has the assistance of a nurse. She can dress herself, for example, although it takes a while without help.
Unlike some patients with brain injuries, she does not have problems with impulsivity or decision-making and is not distracted by noise, Kelly said.
The most encouraging part of Giffords' recovery, her husband said, is her spirit.
"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."
"She's always excited whenever I get home. It always makes my day better, seeing her," said Kelly's youngest daughter, Claire.
Claire, 14, traveled with the couple to Tucson last week and they planned to stay through today. The family stayed in Giffords' central Tucson condo and also with Giffords' parents. In addition to helping with Barber's special election campaign, they did some socializing and visited Bisbee.
Giffords and Kelly also visited the northwest-side Safeway plaza where she was shot on Jan. 8, 2011. Giffords, who was shot through the left side of the brain, was one of 13 people injured that day. Barber was shot in the face and neck and nearly died. Six people were killed, including a 9-year-old girl, a federal judge and Giffords' staffer Gabe Zimmerman.
"We were up by Ron's campaign office, up there on the northwest side, so we had lunch in the Beyond Bread there. 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.
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 it will be back to Houston, where Giffords is still engaged in a rigorous regimen of physical, occupational and speech therapy through TIRR Memorial Hermann rehabilitation hospital.
Later this summer, Giffords, Kelly and Kelly's daughters will take a European cruise.
The paperback version of "Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope," which Kelly and Giffords wrote with Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow, is to come out in October. It will have an extra chapter about a new memory Giffords has about the day of the shooting, Kelly said.
He and Giffords worked alone in writing the extra chapter because Zaslow was killed in a car accident earlier this year.
Set for release on the same day is a children's book Kelly wrote called "Mousetronaut," based on the true story of a mouse who was aboard his first space mission.
Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at email@example.com or 573-4134