Exclusive: Gabrielle Giffords' Husband Capt. Mark Kelly on Her Recovery, Family of Jared Loughner

PHOTO Mark Kelly, shown on his wedding day with wife Gabrielle Gifford, opens up about his wifes recovery and the Tucson shooting that injured her and killed six people.
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In a poignantly personal interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer, astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly opens up about his wife Gabrielle Giffords' recovery and the Tucson shooting that injured her and killed six people.

Kelly, who has been photographed by his wife's hospital bed holding her hand, said there is a habit of hers that has convinced him that she recognizes him.

"If I hold her hand, she'll play with my wedding ring," he said. "She'll move it up and down my finger. She'll take it off. ... She'll put it on her own finger. She'll move it to her thumb. And then she can put it back on my finger.

"The reason why I know that that means she recognizes me is because she's done that before. She'll do that if we're sitting in a restaurant. She'll do the same exact movements," he said.

Watch portions of Diane Sawyer's exclusive interview Tuesday on "Good Morning America," "World News with Diane Sawyer" and "Nightline." Watch the full interview on a special edition of "20/20," "The Congresswoman and the Astronaut: An American Story of Love and Strength," at 10 p.m. ET.

Kelly was struck by Giffords' progress again when "she stuck her hand up on the side of my face" and began giving him a neck massage.

"She spent 10 minutes rubbing my neck and I keep telling her, 'Gabby, you're in the ICU. You know, you don't need to be doing this," he said with a chuckle.

Kelly added, "I'm pretty sure she wouldn't do that to somebody else. And she's looking me in the eye."

Today's hopeful emotions are a world away from what was going through his mind a little more than a week ago when Kelly was in Houston and got a phone call from one of his wife's staffers, telling him his "Gabby" had been shot. He had spoken to his wife 30 minutes before.

"I picked up the phone and she says, 'I don't know how to tell you about this, but I just received a call ... and Gabby's been shot,'" Kelly told Sawyer. "I said, 'Well, that's, you know, that's not possible. Are you sure?'"

With no other information, Kelly ended the conversation and hung up his cell phone. He had to look at the phone's call history to make sure he hadn't imagined the news. He told his children -- Giffords' stepdaughters -- and then called Giffords' parents and his own. Then, there was one thought in his head.

"[I] quickly had to figure out how I'm going to get there very, you know, very fast," Kelly said.

Kelly Had Feared for His Wife's Safety Before

Capt. Kelly admitted to Sawyer that he had been worried about his wife's safety in the past and that the two of them had discussed the death threats Giffords had received. "She's had death threats," he said. "As a lot of members of Congress have death threats. She's had them before."

Giffords has shared her own fears with her husband, telling him, "Someday, I'm really worried that somebody's going to come up to me at one of these events with a gun."

It was not an everyday fear but it was something that Giffords and Kelly took seriously enough to discuss a handful of times, he said.

When asked if he would ever be willing to meet with Loughner's parents, Kelly told Sawyer that he was open to the idea.

"I'd probably see them," he said. "I don't think it's their fault. It's not the parents' fault. I'd like to think I'm a person that's somewhat forgiving. And, I mean, they've got to be hurting in this situation as much as anybody.

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