The informant explains that his mother had met her husband during high school and had married him soon after. They lived a long life together in a small town in Minnesota, but the husband died a number of years earlier than she had and the mother had eventually moved into a retirement home.
The informant explains that his mother had a number of sayings, but in the retirement she would describe a number of the other men in the retirement home – the widowers – as “looking for a nurse with a purse.” The informant explains that by that she meant that the men were looking for someone who could take care of them. Not only someone who could cater to them and take care of them, but also have financial resources to support them. The informant explains that his mother would sometimes quip, especially about this man named Ed who his father knew, that those guys are just looking for “a nurse with a purse.”
The informant explains that his impression of this saying was that his mother thought that all men should be self-sufficient and not look for women to take care of them – even in old age. The informant explains that his mother had a rather tough like since childhood and had little compassion for those who needed help.
My impression of the saying is that the informant’s mother’s tough upbringing did have a strong influence on her lack of sympathy or hostility towards others looking for help. The line shows how one can sum up an ideal in few words.