When Gloria Giffords received a phone call from her son-in-law Mark Kelly to say her daughter had been shot, the 73-year-old jumped in her car and was the first one at the hospital bedside of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
"He said, 'Gabby's been shot,' and I didn't know what to say," Gloria Giffords told Diane Sawyer Monday, in the first interview with the congresswoman since the attack. "I said, 'Well I'm going to find her.' Someone shot my baby. Somebody shot my baby."
For the next five months, Gabrielle Giffords' mother remained by her side in a Tucson hospital and Houston rehabilitation center, cheering on her daughter's recovery.
She helped Gabrielle through hours and hours of speech therapy, singing familiar songs, including their favorite, "Tomorrow," from the show "Annie" to help her daughter forge new connections in her brain. In a new book by Kelly and Giffords, "Gabby: A Story of Hope and Courage," Kelly writes that this song was a special bond between the two that survived the shooting.
"As Gabby got older," he writes, "'Tomorrow' became a connection between her and her mom. Whenever Gabby would be frustrated or disappointed, her mother would sing to her. It may sound corny, this mother daughter ritual, but it connected them."
The elder Giffords sat by her daughter's bed in the early days, when her daughter was still silent, singing softly to her. Later, as Gabrielle began to speak again, they sang together.
"Gabby and I have always thought the message in that song is one of hope and perseverance. That's why we love it and find it so meaningful," Gloria said.
Gloria Giffords was ever-present at the Houston rehab hospital, Kelly writes. While he was up in space, commanding the final mission of the space shuttle Endeavour, it was Gloria Giffords who advocated to doctors, nurses, orderlies, and custodians on her daughter's behalf, and tapped out dozens of emails on her BlackBerry, updating friends and relatives on Gabby's progress.
Kelly writes that the relationship between his mother-in- law and him is a working partnership, constantly trying to figure out together what's best for Gabby. Gloria keeps Mark updated on the food Gabby eats, the medicines she takes, her shower schedule, her mail, her pain, and the stitches on her skull, he says.
"I was the only astronaut on the International Space Station whose in-box was filled with Earth-to-space emails from his mother-in-law," Kelly writes.
¬¬Giffords has come a long way since the early days when her mother would croon to her as she slept, but she told Sawyer she isn't 100 percent ready to head back to Congress and life in the public yet. "Better," she said.
"She wants to get better," Kelly added.
"And so, you think to yourself, 'I'll go back to Congress if I get better?'"
"Yes, yes, yes," Giffords said.
Together, Gabby Giffords, Kelly and Gloria Giffords will see that "better" becomes a reality, as they all pull for her to make a strong return to Congress a possibility. For Kelly, and his brave, tough wife, anything is possible.
"Tough, tough, tough," Giffords said. "Tough as nails."